Is your laboratory safe and fit for purpose?
By Suzanne Jordan - 30 September 2011
Microbiological analysis needs to be closely controlled for the user of the results to have confidence in their reliability. Part of that control is ensuring that the laboratory is suitable for purpose, and provides a safe working environment for all staff and visitors. The design of a laboratory will depend on the type of analyses it 'is used for as this will determine the 'Containment Level' or set controls needed to meet safe working practice.
It doesn't matter if you are building from scratch, adding to an existing facility, or merely upgrading it: the end result has to meet the need. But what are the factors that really matter? Well, a quick look at the relevant areas of legislation will give you a clue to those that affect the workforce: from general Building and Construction Regulations through the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations to fire regulations and microbiology containment requirements, there is an awful lot to take into consideration. And then you need to ensure that the workforce can carry out the analyses effectively!
As well as building construction, you have to consider the safe installation and correct working of equipment. We have identified 33 different types of equipment commonly in use in most laboratories that need to be evaluated! – . When you have the facility up and running, don't forget to document your procedures regarding access to the facility, training, cleaning and disinfection, transport and handling of cultures and waste media, washing of lab coats, and general risk assessments and handling of hazardous substances. Last and by no means least, you'll need to keep a record of your emergency procedures as well.
There are additional considerations to take into account if you are using a portable or temporary building, and yet more if you are extending, refurbishing or upgrading an existing facility – mainly related to the measures that have to be taken to avoid disrupting or compromising ongoing work.
Few would attempt to build or refurbish a microbiology laboratory without expert advice. It is something we often get asked to help with. So much so that we have published a new guideline (Guidelines for the design and safety of food microbiology laboratories – Guideline No. 66) which specifically covers laboratories up to Containment Level 2.
If you are building, refurbishing or setting up a lab, the many practical tips in this guide could save you considerable time and money. And if you need a tailored approach to lead you through step–by–step, we will be pleased to help.