If you work in a laboratory that deals with dangerous vapors or chemicals, you likely do a large portion of your work inside of a fume hood. A fume hood is a significant but often necessary investment for your lab, so you’ll want to make sure that it lasts.
While there are many things that can affect the longevity of your fume hood, we’ll address some of the critical things you’ll want to be aware of in order to ensure your fume hood lasts as long as possible.
Maintenance is a necessary part of owning any laboratory equipment. Proper maintenance will keep your fume hood in good working condition for as long as possible. To ensure that your fume hood continues to function properly, it must be tested upon installation and at least once a year. To obtain a certification, the fume hood must meet certain requirements set by ASHRAE (American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air Conditioning Engineers). Furthermore, the installation, operation, and maintenance of fume hoods are guided by a variety of governmental and industry organizations. Each organization publishes its own standards regarding proper use and inspection guidelines.
In addition to the required maintenance, it is recommended to perform daily checks of the fume hood. This includes checking the fume hood for visible airflow blockage such as large items near the slot opening. Other daily inspections and tasks include holding a tissue at the opening to observe inward airflow and regular cleaning of the hood.
The placement of the fume hood is very important to maximize its efficiency and lifespan. Always avoid placing fume hoods near doorways or exits. Placing a fume hood in a high-traffic walkway could result in bursts of air currents. This abrupt airflow may affect the ability of the hood to capture and exhaust vapors, fumes, and other contaminants. In addition, you should also avoid placing fume hoods near windows or air diffusers. As with foot traffic, these areas result in irregular air currents that may affect the performance of the hood and ultimately, its longevity. To ensure your lab as well as the equipment within it is optimized, it is important to have a well-designed work area.
Baffles are adjustable partitions that create slotted openings. The baffles are located along the back of the hood and direct the air that is being exhausted out of the hood. The baffles work with the front sash to control airflow and optimize the efficiency of your fume hood. If the baffles are ever closed or blocked, the exhaust path is also blocked. It is important to familiarize yourself with the material you are working with to ensure that the baffles are adjusted properly. If you are unsure of how to properly adjust them, consult with a laboratory engineer to ensure that the fume hood baffles are set correctly and that the fume hood is functioning properly. Baffles are an essential part of the overall function of a fume hood. Proper adjustment of the baffles will ensure optimal performance and play a key role in how long your hood lasts.
Proper Work Practices
Having proper work practices and procedures in place will not only affect the longevity of your fume hood but the entirety of your lab. Common mistakes when using a fume hood can be detrimental. Some things to keep in mind specifically when using a fume hood are:
– Keep the hood clear of clutter, never use it for storage.
– While working within the hood, make sure that all materials are kept at least six inches from the sash (front of the fume hood). In addition, remember to lower the sash when the hood is not in use.
– Avoid quick movements while near the hood- this may cause turbulence resulting in hazardous vapor escape.
Remember that a laboratory is meant to be a productive environment for development and collaboration. While it is the requirement of an employer to provide a safe work environment, it is also the responsibility of each and every employee to adhere to the proper rules and practices set forth to ensure the safety of everyone within the laboratory.
For further reading regarding proper work practices and proper fume hood use, Princeton University provides an excellent guide that outlines some of the most common misuses of fume hoods. Familiarizing yourself with this list and avoiding these common mistakes will most definitely assist in extending the life of your fume hood.
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