Appropriate use of personal protective equipment in shared spaces

In both these incidents, the research laboratories contained writing spaces with computer workstations and desks that were separated from the working part of the laboratory by only an aisle.

In one laboratory, a person was holding a 250-mL glass flask when it overpressurized and burst, spraying shards of glass across the laboratory. Not only did the person holding the flask receive multiple lacerations, but another person not involved in the procedure, sitting 3 m away at a desk, was hit by flying glass and received lacerations that required sutures.

In another laboratory, a container of nitric acid and methanol sitting in a chemical fume hood overpressurized and burst, spraying shards of glass and nitric acid over every surface of the laboratory. A person sitting 3 m away at a desk received some nitric acid and glass on the laboratory coat, but nowhere else.

In both cases, the potential for eye injuries, chemical burns, and physical injury to a person not involved in the experiment existed. Both incidents illustrate the importance of wearing eye protection and other protective equipment, as appropriate, whenever a risk is present.

Advantages include

   visibility among researchers;

   better communication and collaboration;

   easy to share resources, including equipment, space, and support staff;

   flexibility for future needs because of open floor plan with adaptable furnishings;

   significant space savings compared with smaller, enclosed laboratories; and

   cost savings (first building/renovation costs and ongoing operating costs) compared with smaller, enclosed laboratories.

Disadvantages and limitations include

   for large spaces, challenging to balance the ventilation system;

   limitations to the size or placement of the laboratory (e.g., the floor of the building, the type of research) because of chemical storage code limitations for flammable and other materials;

   need for isolated spaces because of specific types of work being conducted, such as cell or tissue work where cross-contamination is an issue, use of certain radioactive materials, lasers, materials requiring special security measures, glass-washing facilities (see section 9.B.3 for more information);

   challenge of storing chemicals and supplies when there is a lack of natural spaces created by walls and other fixtures;

   noise from people and equipment may be higher than in a closed laboratory; and

   inability of some researchers to work effectively in an open laboratory environment.

Design teams should work with the research teams to find solutions that accommodate the needs of the researchers as much as possible. A combination of open laboratory spaces with smaller areas dedicated to special functions is often necessary.

9.B.3 Closed Laboratories and Access

Closed or separate laboratory spaces are often necessary for certain functions because of the nature of the operation, equipment needs, or security concerns. These areas may or may not be separated with a door. The need for a door and access control should be examined carefully for code requirements, safety protocol, and containment concerns.

The following issues should be considered:

   Do the exits require doors by code?

   Must the corridor walls, doors, and frames be fire-rated by code?

   Is containment of spills or smoke an issue that demands doors?

   Is noise an issue that demands separation and attenuation?

   Does the need for room air pressure control necessitate a door closing the laboratory space off from other areas?

   Does the work present a hazard that requires that access by untrained personnel be controlled?

   Do some materials or equipment present a security risk?

   Do the materials require compliance with bio-safety guidelines?

Examples of operations or activities that may require separation from the main laboratory are in Table 9.1.

The use of unusually hazardous materials may re-

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