Safety is always paramount in any lab. Lab designers have safety in mind whenever they are designing a new lab or retrofitting an existing one. Designers’ storage choices can improve a lab’s safety and productivity, but if storage considerations aren’t included in the early design phases, unsafe conditions can actually be “baked in” to a lab’s design.
Harvard’s School of Health has some recommendations for safe and productive lab designs that can be improved further by innovative benching and storage options.
- Determine the workflow needed. A lab’s end users may not have a clear idea of what they want but they always know what tasks they will be performing in a space. The materials and processes, the number of people working there, and any special requirements like ADA compliance will influence the design. A well-built modular benching system will give users flexibility to arrange the space to suit their needs.
- Ensure adequate room for people and processes. A crowded lab is less productive, and accidents are more likely in areas where aisles and workspaces are tight. If floor space is at a premium, various storage solutions will preserve extra floor space for people and processes.
- The right layout ensures good workflow. The sequence of processes helps determine a productive layout, and material-appropriate storage should be in close proximity to each process in the sequence. Electronic equipment can be stored in cabinets; chemical storage is more complex, and must be designed to match the safety requirements of each substance.
- Safety features aid productivity. When staff isn’t worried about how to handle an emergency, they can focus on their work. And when equipment and materials are properly stored instead of cluttering workbenches and aisles, staff can get to safety quickly if they need to.
- Design for change. When new technologies and processes require a change in workflow, modular casework can be reconfigured and re-purposed to fit the new workflow. Labs avoid the cost of new cabinets and benching, and the new layout can be executed with a minimum of down time, keeping the operation productive and on-budget.
We would add a sixth suggestion to this list: Talk to a design consultant who can recommend storage products or even a turnkey lab design-build company. The design process is complex and time-consuming, and lab managers have enough on their plates already. Bring in an expert, and stay focused on the lab’s primary mission of scientific excellence.
Photo © micromonkey / AdobeStock