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Chemical Laboratories

Whilst some aspects of the design will be desirable, there are a number of minimum requirements that must be met.

Laboratory Design

Laboratories must be designed so that the space allocated is appropriate for the tasks to be performed (operational, servicing and maintenance), the equipment to be installed and the hazards that may be presented once the facility is up and running. It may even need to accommodate particular needs of persons that will work in that space.

The area essentially needs to be easy to clean and maintain.

People working in the space should be able to circulate in the space unimpeded by each other and by fixed equipment. As a minimum there should be a gap of 1200mm between benches for passageways, or 1700mm passageway between back-to-back working benches. The recommended work surface area for each worker is 1500mm and 600mm deep (excluding bench space for laboratory equipment), so as near to this as possible should be achieved at the design stage.

Consideration should be paid to the positioning of any equipment that will give rise to heat or particles in the air as these could impact on fire detection sensors.

A good layout should consider the stages of any chemical processes and look to minimise travelling distances with chemicals.

Any piped in gases and ventilation systems to fume cupboards must be designed and installed by a competent engineer.

Floors

The floor must be capable of withstanding the load of any heavy equipment.

An impervious flooring is needed in a laboratory that is resistant to acids, alkalis, solvents and disinfectants, is easy to clean and compatible with any chemicals likely to be used in the space. A sealed continuous sheet of PVC or linoleum of at least 2.5mm thick is often used as these offer good resistence to most chemicals. Vinyl can also normally be repaired if it gets damaged/split.

Safety flooring, comprising of aluminium oxide and quartz embedded in the polymer makes for a good non-slip surface.

The covering should be coved to the walls to a height of about 150mm, as it will help to contain any spills within the laboratory space. All edges must be sealed or welded to prevent seepage of spilled materials.

Any service voids that could become contaminated must also have impervious surfaces.

If a sensitive analytical balance is needed any sprung floor will be unsuitable.

Ideally write-up spaces should be separate from the laboratory space to avoid the potential for cross-contamination to occur.

Ceilings and walls

Ceilings and walls must be smooth and painted with a hard gloss, acrylic emulsion or high quality waterproof vinyl. Any joints or surface penetrations should be sealed with a suitable material.

Facilities for handwashing and washing equipment

Sinks are required in laboratories and preparation rooms for a water supply for practical activities, to wash equipment, to dispose of low hazard solutions, to wash hands after handling chemicals and to apply immediate remedial measures after an accident.

There must be hot and cold water provided and a dedicated sink for handwashing, preferably provided near to the entrance to the laboratory.

The sink, trap and drain for the laboratory sink must be of a suitable chemically resistant and robust material. Liquid soap and a paper towel dispenser must be provided.

General Laboratory Ventilation

A laboratory must have a sufficient supply of fresh air with a through-flow in all rooms: 5-10 complete changes of air per hour should be achieveable, dependant upon the expected activities to take place in the space.

Doors

Doors to laboratories, preparation and storage rooms must be lockable.

Two exit doors will only be required for fire purposes if the risk assessment warrants two exits from the laboratory.

Fire doors must be self-closing and remain closed whenever possible. If there is a regular need to move chemicals in and out of a laboratory, electromagnetic door closure devices that hold the door open until the alarm activates can be considered providing there is no need to ensure that the area remains secure. These doors should however be closed out of hours for security reasons.

Sockets

Sufficient plug sockets and comms ports must be supplied for the planned equipment. Where these are to be positioned above the workbench they should be placed at least 150mm above the worksurface, in spine zones in teh middle of work benches or in droppers from an above ceiling service matrix. Any sockets placed under benches or elsewhere in the laboratory must be placed in a position to prevent penetration by liquids and to avoid trailing cables.

High voltage/current equipment

An emergency isolation button to cut electrical service in case of an emergency must be located in the vicinity of the high voltage or high current equipment it controls at an easily accessible space in the laboratory.

Coat hooks

Chemical laboratories by their very nature imply that the space will be used for handling and working with chemicals. Laboratory coats must be worn in all chemical laboratories to avoid the potential for spills on personal clothing. There should therefore be at least sufficient coat hooks at the entrance of the laboratory to cater for the number of lab coats to be worn in the space and visitors and a separate area, preferably outside of the laboratory area for personal coats to be hung up, or lockers provided elsewhere, for the staff or students to place their own coats and bags so that they cannot become contaminated.

Lighting

Wherever possible natural lighting should be provided to laboratory spaces. When examining the lighting arrangement, there is a minimum acceptable level for a general laboratory space, which is 750 lux at the work surface. Lighting levels however must be appropriate for the activities taking place. The most appropriate energy efficient lighting should be built into the design, however if fitting photosensing lighting, these must be capable of being manually overridden with a switch clearly indicated in the laboratory space. Sufficient emergency lighting must also be provided.

Area for waste

Waste should not be permitted to accummulate in a laboratory space in an unmanaged way. Consideration must be paid to the waste streams that are going to be presented when the laboratory is in operation and provision made to allow sufficient space in the design of the laboratory for suitable waste bins to be sited in the room that will enable the appropriate segregation of wastes.