The spatial arrangement, organization, and display of lab equipment and materials have implications that extend far beyond mere aesthetics. The approach used to design lab spaces physically helps to guide lab members through their daily tasks, while the values incorporated into this approach are critical as they directly inform how lab members perform these duties.
Key Elements of Good Shelving Design in Labs
What this means is that the way you design a lab space—including storage—can reinforce compliance to industry best practices and even adherence to SOPs. The area will need to reflect the SOPs behind the work being performed in the space, the requirements for cleaning and sterility, the tasks being performed and the need for spatial adjustability to accommodate them, and even the prominence of labels to ensure the appropriate materials are being used and replenished.
One of the most significant risks in lab operations is the potential impact of human error. Unfortunately, no amount of training can ensure that even the most experienced team member will never make an error. The considerations when designing even a simple storage space in a laboratory must center around facilitating compliance.
Spaces like chemical hoods are common focal points for such efforts. Unfortunately, other parts of the lab—such as shelves and drawers—are often taken for granted. Here we explore some of the ways in which shelving can be used to compensate for potential human error, and keep lab safety and compliance intact.
Leveraging shelving to minimize risk
The opportunities for customization and adjustability in shelving areas are crucial beyond just achieving a clean appearance. Tailoring storage solutions to fit particular spaces and the storage of specific items can reinforce accountability in their usage. Knowing the appropriate protocols is not useful for your lab members unless they can adhere to them, which can be made easier through the use of a well-designed space.
Using our expertise as the leading manufacturer of lab storage solutions, we've identified four key ways in which shelving can be used to compensate for potential human error.
Designate fixed storage spaces by item - This single step can make everything from inventory management through item access simpler. Having specific places for items to be stored allows for them to be kept in their ideal conditions, with closer control over what items are opened and how they are handled once they are opened. These storage spaces can be placed near the workspaces—and any special disposal units—where they are required, to help reinforce best practices.
Labeling - Shelving storage can be leveraged to accommodate labels, colors, and other ways to denote unique characteristics for different materials. Consistent systems can be developed and adhered to since the physical spaces for the materials remain consistently designated for them.
Accommodate changes over time - Adjustable shelving can be used to accommodate SOP changes as well as any other alterations that may arise over time, without compromising the best practices established within the lab for inventory, storage, and disposal. As needs change, this shelving can also be used to modify material access as needed.
Use shelving as a visual reminder - By placing safety equipment such as PPE in highly visible locations, and alongside placement of proper disposal methods next to where items are used, shelving can be used to reinforce safety training and lab protocols visually.
Providing lab members with an environment in which they can confidently proceed with their tasks and roles will help boost productivity while maintaining accuracy and precision in all data generated. The safeguards introduced by such well-planned storage spaces and work areas add another layer of preventive measures that can keep labs safe and output quality high. Taking the time to review your protocols, task flow, and spatial arrangement can help you optimize the space appropriately so that your team can operate at their best.
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