There are many industries in the nation that have seen significant growth over the past decade. The medical and biotech laboratory industry is no exception to this trend; it’s expanding in spite of the economy’s slow recovery. On the surface, this sounds like a promising field to look into if you’re a millennial graduate, but it isn’t necessarily that straightforward.
Before diving into to the biomedical field, you’ll need to understand what you’re getting into—and we don’t just mean how to use fume hoods or where you’ll be in 10 years’ time.
Stats and Facts
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the medical and clinical laboratory technician field’s growth of open positions will increase by 16 percent over the next 10 years. Salary amounts start at $35,000 per year and increase to as much as triple this rate, but the median is $51,000.
The minimum requirements for most lab positions aren’t all that robust, though more experience will ensure better success at interviews. Expect to possess a two-year associate’s degree with some work-related experience to get the job.
There is, in fact, a rising demand for diagnosing the aging population that will sustain the growth of the industry in the near future. Choosing to pursue a career in this field could very well provide you with a life-long job you love as long as you go about it the right way.
Mass Retiring and Aging Baby Boomers
Lab job work will benefit from aging baby boomers directly. The loss of older and experienced laboratory technicians who will most likely retire in the next five years will significantly increase available positions.
Around 20 percent of experienced lab techs in nearly every medical field fall under or close to the baby boomer generation. This rapid loss of senior workplace experience will hurt the knowledge base of the current bulk of laboratory technicians somewhat, but this is balanced by the increase in available jobs.
Unfortunately, this knowledge is difficult to replace. Labs will need to work harder than ever to train newer techs on the job, and techs will need to rely more on their previous education to acclimatize to newer standards.
Schools Lack Training Programs
If only the solution was to just rely on formal education to fill in the gaps of workplace experience. Unfortunately, heavy cuts to laboratory training programs at colleges across the country are resulting in less actual lab time in school.
The numbers reflect this statistic. Despite the fact that 7,000 new lab tech jobs open every year, college training programs only produce around 6,000 potential lab techs. The shortage means that schools are only able to train 85 percent of the workforce. In an environment like a lab, where it simply isn’t as easy to train technicians, this is a very notable problem.
Added Pressure on Current Lab Techs
There is a growing pressure for current lab techs to find more efficient and effective ways to get new lab techs up to speed. This is worsened by a constantly rising demand for professional lab techs and poor training resources, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you won’t get the training you need; it just means labs need to get creative.
Many modern labs are decreasing the clinical rotation cycle to get more new techs first-hand experience. Some programs have already dropped their normal 22 weeks down to 12 weeks, but the demand is high enough that 8 weeks may have to be the new limit.
Internships may also open up the floor for experience without stressing either the lab or the student. Although salary is often lacking, real-time lab experience under a mentor is incredibly valuable.
Technology and future iterations of current machines (including computers) will also make training and education in lab work much easier. One online learning module, eClinic, is under development to use 3D technology that simulates laboratory conditions and virtual classrooms at the same time. Students can use eClinic to run experiments without the same risks they’d face in real-time.
Though virtual reality isn’t the same as hands-on experience, it is nearly as accurate and wide-reaching in scope. In an industry that needs all the help it can get, this new technology helps to fill in the gaps.
Is your lab struggling to find new workers with enough experience to work safely and efficiently? Start with having the right equipment from day one. From fume hoods to lab furniture, Genie Scientific has everything you need to run your lab smoothly, effectively, and comfortably.
Fume hoods go through a certification process when they are manufactured. These processes are designed to ensure the hood will satisfy state, federal, and international certification guidelines, as well as those that meet or exceed current ISO9001 standards. In addition, the certification is part of the requirements to comply with standards and regulations prescribed by various agencies, including:
• SEFA (Scientific Equipment and Furniture Association)
• OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration)
• ASHRAE (American Society of Heating, Refrigeration, and Air Conditioning Engineers)
• NEBB (National Environmental Balancing Bureau)
• AIHA/ANSI (American Industrial Hygiene Association/American National Standards Institute)
There are specific test procedures used to evaluate the fume hood’s airflow velocity, airflow monitors, airflow gauges, cross-draft air flows, tracer gas containment, and so on. Long before these tests can be performed, the first step in certification is to calibrate the hood, airflow monitors, gauges, and motors.
The calibration has to be performed to verify these items are working correctly and the face velocity of the airflow is within acceptable parameters. Most agencies accept a minimum face velocity of 100 fpm (feet per minute) and a maximum of 120 fpm, and they tend to use 115 fpm as a standardized calibration since it is sufficient for a wide array of general usages.
After a fume hood has been initially certified by the manufacturer, laboratories, universities, healthcare facilities, and other organizations where the hoods are installed must ensure they have policies and practices in place to re-certify the hood on an annual basis, at the minimum. Some operations will re-certify their hoods bi-annually or quarterly, depending upon the amount of use and volume of chemicals and materials being used under the hood.
Anytime a hood is re-certified, the certification sticker on the hood should be updated. Any hood within your organization that either does not have a certification sticker, or has one that was last certified more than a year ago, should not be used until the hood can be tested and re-certified.
Re-certification testing checks the face airflow velocity using an acceptable measuring device, like an electronic digital anemometer, and verifies other devices and functions are working within prescribed and acceptable parameters.
Some organizations outfit their hoods with special monitors that constantly monitor face airflow values. These devices will sound an alarm and alert employees that the airflow has dropped below acceptable minimum levels. The use of monitoring devices is highly recommended, as it helps increase safety in work environments and reduces the risks associated with workplace accidents related to poor venting.
In between annual certifications, regular laboratory inspections should be conducted on all hoods. All monitors and other measurement devices should be checked to ensure they are working properly. In addition, the inspection should verify good housekeeping practices are being followed and practiced.
Anytime a hood is found to not be working correctly or fails testing guidelines, its use should be discontinued immediately until it can be fixed, repaired, and retested. For assistance in laboratory planning, installation, furniture, workbenches, hoods, and other products, call Genie Scientific at 800-545-8816.
Like any other piece of laboratory equipment, it’s important that everyone in your laboratory knows how to properly operate your fume hood. In this post, we’ll take a look at some of the most important things lab staff need to know about using a fume hood.
1. Know What Your Fume Hood Is For
Fume hoods aren’t one-size-fits-all pieces of equipment—you always need to make sure that the protection needs for your work match up with the type of fume hood you are using. A carbon-filtered fume hood pulls contaminated air through the filters, then recirculates the clean air into the room, thereby protecting only lab personnel. A laminar flow hood, by comparison, protects only the product, while a biological safety cabinet protects both the product and the personnel.
2. Never Operate a Fume Hood Without Appropriate Training
Though it might seem simple enough to use in concept, it’s important that all who use the fume hood are appropriately trained in its use and safety requirements. It’s not only a laboratory best practice, it’s also the best way to make sure no one is injured in a related accident.
3. Always Know What You’re Working with (and Have the MSDS Nearby)
Even with the protective benefit of the hood, it’s an important best practice to always know which chemicals you’re working with, as well as their risks and potential interactions. Be sure to keep the appropriate MSDS nearby for easy reference.
4. Keep the Sash Closed When the Hood Is Not in Use
Just like Mom always said, close it/put it away when you’re not using it. Not only does this ensure the safety of everyone working in the lab, but it also prevents excess energy expenditure. In laboratories using a variable air volume system with sash sensors that adjust the volumetric flow of air, a great deal of energy and money can be saved by lowering the sash and reducing the volume of air flow.
5. Fume Hoods Are Not for Storage
It should go without saying, but nothing should ever be stored inside a fume hood when it’s not in use. This is a common error in labs that don’t have sufficient storage space, but keeping chemicals and equipment inside an unused fume hood can lead to spills, equipment damage, and more. If you need more storage, consider investing in a new set of Genie Scientific steel storage cabinets.
Get a Genie Scientific Custom Fume Hood to Suit Your Needs
For a high-quality, reliable fume hood designed specifically to fit your laboratory’s functions, turn to Genie Scientific. For three decades, we’ve been building and installing custom UL Listed and ASHRAE 110 tested fume hoods with a broad variety of features. From floor-mounted walk-in fume hoods to explosion-proof materials and convenient bench tops, each of our hoods is built to last through experiment after experiment.
To learn more about Genie Scientific fume hoods and other custom laboratory fixtures, contact us today at (800) 545-8816.