Older lab equipment doesn’t last forever. Equipment typically gets replaced every now and then or when something breaks. It’s easy to look at a big machine or a counter top and think it was built like a truck, but this is erroneous and dangerous, especially when it comes to fume hoods. A recent survey of laboratories showed that roughly one-fifth of them were going to replace their fume hood; a whopping one-third of those replacements were due to old age!
If you’ve recently completed a safety checklist but aren’t sure if the issues you found require the equipment to be replaced, use this guide to keep your lab safe.
Failed Safety Tests
Upgrading your custom fume hood isn’t just about getting a new shiny piece of equipment. It’s all about keeping you safe. The moment you realize your fume hood isn’t doing enough to keep you safe is when you should look into a replacement.
A big red flag is if your hood fails to pass its annual filtration test but the filters are new or in good condition. This sometimes happens due to other variables, but, more than likely, it’s your 30-year-old fume hood breaking down. The fact of the matter is that older fume hoods don’t have the technological or safety features modern-day hoods have.
Material degradation is another reason to replace a fume hood. Obvious signs of this include discoloration of the material inside the hood, etches or scratches, or fogging of the windows that can’t be (or isn’t easily) cleaned off.
If the interior doesn’t physically look like it’s made of one material throughout, then its structure may be weakened and becoming unsafe. This can get bad enough to the point where the internal parts of the hood start degrading and corroding.
One sign of this is a loud fan that makes noises or inconsistent spinning speeds. These signs are due to prolonged exposure to chemicals, in general, or an exposure to a wide variety of chemicals that older hoods were not designed to handle.
Replacing something by virtue of its being old may seem like an unimportant condition and a bit like excessive spending, but it’s important to note how much technology has changed over the last few decades. Older fume hoods don’t keep pace with newer chemical applications.
Laboratory space is at a premium; you may need more time or space with your fume hood than you can feasibly get with your current setup. If you’ve hired on more staff or are running more experiments, the hoods you have may not be able to keep up.
Older hood hardware can be an issue, too. It may be too expensive to upgrade, too difficult to adjust, or simply impossible to bring up to code. It will degrade faster if you’re using the hood with chemicals it wasn’t designed for. Using these chemicals can create buildup on the viewing glass, scratch and corrode the interior, and corrode the internal parts of the hood and ducts.
This can all lead to the hood not working as intended or potentially breaking completely in the middle of an experiment.
Need to replace your fume hood? Genie Scientific offers a broad range of hoods to serve many laboratory needs. Shop for parts, hoods, supplies, and more right from your laboratory, now, by browsing our extensive catalog located on our website.
Knowing how to use a fume hood can be elusive, especially if you’re shopping for a fume hood for the first time. Despite their usefulness in a laboratory setting, many labs use them incorrectly even when installed. Poorly or incorrectly installed hoods won’t just perform incorrectly, they can be a safety risk, too.
Understand that it is mandatory to have a fume hood safety checklist nearby at all times when using a fume hood. The 5-minute safety inspection should take place before using the hood every single time, no matter what the experiment. However, these checklists can be out of date or convoluted, and they may be full of technical jargon that isn’t clearly explained to entry-level technicians. Use this fume hood safety checklist to keep your laboratory safe.
Basic Safety Tips
First and foremost are some basic safety tips about the machine itself. Make sure your fume hood is tested and maintained regularly. Keep the fume hood safety checklist nearby at all times—it’s best hung on a wall nearby rather than stashed in a drawer. Keep all appropriate lab equipment close to the fume hood and easy to access (i.e., not behind locked drawers).
Be vigilant about looking for defects or potential malfunctions. Make it easy for technicians to report these issues to upper management as they occur. If it takes your technician an hour to contact a repair specialist, you likely have a problem with your maintenance process that needs to be addressed.
Finally, check to see if your hood’s flow indicator is in place and working properly to detect the airflow inside. If it’s not, don’t utilize the hood until the problem is resolved.
Airflow is how a fume hood keeps you safe. Without it, chemical fumes and gases will build up and can make your technicians extremely sick. Depending on the gas, it could even cause fatalities or explosions. Make sure that the airflow of the room and the hood’s immediate surroundings are being properly channeled before using it each and every time.
Check to see if all windows and doors in the lab are closed. Turn off or remove any fans within the room. Pointing a fan in the direction of the fume hood may redirect the air to flow outside of it and directly into your face. Finally, make sure there is nothing in the fume hood itself that is blocking air flow through the baffles in the back.
Vapors and Gases
Vapors take some time to properly disperse into their surroundings. Keep all work materials and chemicals at least 6 inches away from you while they are inside the hood. This will give enough room to create a strong enough air current to protect you and any other team members that are working with you.
Note that fume hoods are not designed to protect you from explosions, so extra caution should be taken with any inflammatory substances. Some of the vapors may dissipate through your flame hood—but don’t forget that your arms and the rest of the lab are still vulnerable through the small opening in the front. Make sure you know what you are working with and what to do if an accident happens.
Chemical Safety Tips
Not all fume hoods are certified to handle every chemical. There should be a label somewhere on the hood informing you what types of chemicals and reactions it is capable of handling; use this information to guide your fume hood use daily. Never assume that a high-quality hood can handle other substances just because it works well—this is a laboratory cardinal sin.
Common chemicals that many hoods can’t handle include:
• Perchloric acid
• Radioactive isotopes
• Certain other volatile gases
Reactions that involve a high amount of pressure are typically not supported by the average fume hood, either. For experiments like these, custom fume hoods may be best.
You’ll find a marker on the side of your fume hood that indicates fume hood sash height requirements. Do what you can to work at or below that marker to maximize airflow and safety. Many sashes have mechanics that limit how high or low the sash can go; never tamper with the mechanics to force a hood to work, as it may break the sash entirely.
Ensure that the window of the hood is clean and easy to see through before using. Don’t add any stickers or labels of your own or write on the window with markers, and don’t place anything on the sash unless indicated by your laboratory. Even a small obstruction can be an annoyance or a source of danger if it’s in the wrong spot.
Shop now for custom fume hoods, fume hood sashes, and other laboratory-certified products. Genie Scientific has the knowledge and reliability needed to help you achieve your experimentation goals safely, reliably, and effectively with as little risk as possible.
Part of lab planning and design is including the proper equipment, hoods, tables, benches, cabinets, and other such items that will be needed to perform the desired work. Whether you are part of the design team or leading the project, one rather important aspect you need to remember is the lab will have to meet various state and federal regulations and requirements.
It is important to find out what these are for your type of lab environment to ensure it is designed correctly with sufficient ventilation and plenty of vent/exhaust hoods. Unfortunately, each regulatory agency has their own recommendations, requirements, or regulations depending on the specifics of the environment. In regards to air changes per hour (ACH), which is the number of times per hour the air in the entire lab is replaced with fresh air, they vary from one agency to the next.
American National Standards Institute/American Industrial Hygiene Association (ANSI/AIHA)
This agency does not have a specific requirement for airflows, but rather a generalized recommendation, which is between 4 ACH and 10 ACH, based upon the needs of the lab environment. ANSI/AIHA does not provide any strict requirements for airflow because the standards and conditions of each lab can and does vary, so each lab must determine the appropriate design for proper ventilation.
U.S. National Fire Protection Association (NFPA)
The only standard requirement this agency prescribes is in cases where chemicals are present. The standard simply states exhaust, fume, and vent hoods will be run continuously while chemicals are present.
Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)
OSHA also has a broad recommendation for airflow rates that range from 4 ACH to 12 ACH and only provides a generalized recommendation on adequate airflow rates. Their recommendation does mention that ventilation should not be solely relied upon for protection when working with toxic substances being released into the lab’s air.
American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE)
This agency is the one most people refer to when establishing standards for proper ventilation and indoor air quality. When it comes to labs, there is some ambiguity about the recommended ACH. For instance, the recommendation refers to “educational science labs” but not laboratory work environments.
Previously, there were two different listings, one for science labs and another for educational facilities. Currently, the recommend ACH for educational science labs is 1.2 ACH. In the previous versions, from 2006 and earlier, the recommend airflow rate for science labs was 6 ACH.
AHRAE also publishes specific books that are used by the HVAC industry. Within these are specific chapters that contain minimum recommend airflow rates for laboratory environments. For environments where animals are not present, the current minimum is 8 ACH, with a maximum of 12 ACH. In cases where animals are present in the lab, a minimum of 10 ACH and a maximum of 15 ACH is recommended.
As you can see, each agency has different recommendations without any currently mandatory regulations. It is your responsibility to determine the most appropriate ACH for your lab to help keep your employees safe. For assistance with planning, design, and lab furniture, hoods, and accessories, please feel free to contact Genie Scientific at 800-545-8816 today!
Chemical fume hood workstations are designed to help vent airborne particles out of the laboratory and through ductwork and exhaust vents. The overall effectiveness and venting capabilities of the hood are affected by various workplace and general housekeeping practices.
Before starting tests, experiments, or other such work that requires the use of chemical fume hoods, take the time to verify the following good work practices are put into place and are used at all times.
1. Organize the workspace and bench top. Larger equipment should be placed in the back, with progressively smaller items placed in front of one another, for easier access.
2. Keep all glass items and containers full of chemicals away from the front of the workstation. Store these items toward the back or in a cabinet or drawer underneath the bench.
3. Leave plenty of space to perform work processes safely. If you are having to reach over items or find the space too cramped, then your workstation is not set up correctly.
4. Never reuse disposable items. Most disposable products are designed for single-use applications and should be discarded immediately afterward.
5. Discard disposable items in the correct disposal containers. Your lab should have multiple waste containers for various items, and each should be labeled for what items/materials can be placed inside.
6. Inspect glass items for any chips, cracks, or damage prior to using. Discard damaged items promptly.
7. Verify all containers are properly labeled. If you find any containers without labels, remove them from the workbench. Your lab could set up a specific area to place unknown containers filled with chemicals and other materials.
8. Make sure access to showers, eyewash stations, fire extinguishers, and other emergency equipment is easily accessible. If there is equipment or other clutter in the way of these items, clean up the area.
9. Test the fume hood to verify it is working correctly. Turn on the hood and make sure airflow is flowing correctly using various testing methods.
10. Confirm the average face velocity on the hood is sufficient for the chemicals/materials you will be working with. There should be a certification sticker somewhere on the side or above the hood sash with this information. For general purposes, fume hoods are normally set to a velocity of 115 fpm (feet per minutes).
11. Raise bulky equipment an inch or two of the workbench surface. This allows air to flow underneath items, such as hot plates, and helps increase the effectiveness of the fume hood.
12. Verify all panels, baffles, and sashes are in their proper places before starting work. If any of these items are missing or not working correctly, do not use the hood.
13. Once you start working, make sure to clean up spills, powders, and other materials promptly to avoid chemical reactions.
By following these good housekeeping tips, not only do you keep your workspace clean and organized, but you also lower the risks of causing accidents. For all of your fume and exhaust hoods and laboratory furniture needs, contact Genie Scientific at 800-545-8816 today.