3. Laboratory Design and Commissioning

U Construction and Capital Planning and Project Management (CPPM) follow established guidelines to ensure laboratory facilities meet industry safety standards and provide a safe environment for laboratory personnel to conduct their work. Any proposed variation requires approval from the Department of Environmental Health & Safety (DEHS).

View the CPM website for full building standards for laboratories.

Workspace Design

Design Review Process

Every lab moving into new or remodeled space has to file a Hazardous Materials Inventory Statement (HMIS) and a description of laboratory activities with the Building Code Division in Health, Safety, and Risk Management (HSRM) when a construction project is proposed. This information is required for each control area. The HMIS is used to determine the hazard classification of a laboratory and fire separation areas within the building. If it is not feasible to prepare this information, or if it is not filed, the occupancy shall be classified as hazardous under the International Building Code. HSRM may assist the architects and engineers with the collection and evaluation of the hazard information.

General Design

Laboratories must be built as compartments to improve occupant safety and minimize disruptions to business activities and property loss that may be caused by a fire or chemical releases. This compartmentation is in addition to control area separations required by the International Building Code. Adjacent laboratories or other occupancy use areas must/can be separated by construction of smoke partitions.

Aisles serving a single work area must be a minimum of 36 inches wide. Double aisles must be a minimum of 60 inches wide. Avoid aisles longer than 20 feet. Arrange furniture for easy access to an exit from any point in the laboratory.

Provide adequate storage volume for research chemicals and waste. Chemical resistant storage trays shall be furnished to contain a spill of free liquid in the storage unit. Storage cabinets should have integral welded shelf hangers that interlock with shelf; shelf support clips should be avoided in the storage unit.

Provide sufficient storage space to protect new and waste chemicals. Without adequate storage space, containers of waste chemicals are often boxed and stacked on the floor where they might be broken and cause injury.

Emergency Eyewash and Safety Shower Installation

General Requirements

A safety shower and eyewash shall be provided in each lab area equipped with a fume hood. An eyewash shall be provided in other laboratories using hazardous chemical or radiological materials. An eyewash shall be provided in a readily accessible location where BSL-2 or BSL-3 biological agents are stored and used.

Emergency Eyewash

Locate eyewashes and safety showers in areas where the eyes or body may be exposed to harmful chemicals or contamination with infectious agents. In laboratories where a fume hood is installed, provide an eyewash and safety shower. In BSL-2 laboratories, an eyewash station must be readily available.

When necessary to protect against a harmful chemical, locate eyewashes so that the maximum distance from the hazard does not exceed 55 feet and so that they can be reached within 10 seconds. Occupants must not pass through a doorway or weave through equipment to reach the eyewash.

When provided to protect against an exposure to a biological agent, locate the eyewash in a readily accessible location within 10 seconds of the work area. Be sure that the eyewash is located in an area under control of workers so that a door in the path of access cannot be blocked.

Tempered water shall be supplied to eyewashes and safety showers to between 60 degrees F and 95 degrees F. To minimize ongoing maintenance cost, consider designing tempered water systems on a loop that maximizes the number of fixtures served by a single tempering valve.

One handed operation of the eyewash is required. The valve shall remain activated until intentionally shut off. To provide consistency to building occupants, the activation device for the eyewash and safety shower must be uniform throughout the building.

Eyewashes should be designed to ensure all waste water is collected in a basin or sink and drains into a waste line. Sink mounted eyewashes are preferable to free standing and should be installed when possible.

Streams of water shall be simultaneously released from two sides to clean foreign particles or liquids from both the eyes and facial area. These streams should be roughly equal in height, and rise far enough from the nozzle to be effective in rinsing the eyes and facial area.

The preferred activation method of the eyewash is a paddle with dimensions approximately 4 inches by 4 inches. The control shall require no more than 10 ounces of force for activation. The valve shall remain activated until intentionally shut off.

Safety Shower

Safety showers shall be deluge types with a continuous flow valve. The valve shall remain activated until intentionally shut off.

Safety showers may be installed in combination with an eyewash fixture. The supply lines and connections of combination units shall not create obstructions for persons using the laboratory.

Provide a head discharge of at least 20 gallons per minute for safety showers.

The distance from the floor to the shower shall be 82 inches to 96 inches.

A wall cord, ring and chain, or pull bar, located no higher than 48 inches from the floor may activate the shower. To prevent accidental discharge, locate the activating device so that it is not in the way of normal occupant activity.

Fume Hoods

Provide a vertical sliding safety glass sash that is balanced and counterweighted so it can be raised or lowered with one hand from any point along the bottom.

The vertical sliding safety glass sash shall have a positive steel mechanical latch 18 inches above the work surface. The latch prevents the operator from opening the sash above 18 inches without intervention. The operator shall be able to handle the latch with one hand and close it from any position.

Provide an 11-inch wide to 12-inch wide horizontal sliding safety-glass shield on hoods that are 4 feet and longer. The shield shall be suspended on bearings or slide in an easily cleaned channel. It must be supported so pressure is not displaced and the user cannot remove it.
A removable safety shield is permitted on hoods that are 4 feet or shorter. When a removable shield is provided, do not consider the area of the shield when calculating the exhaust volume of the fume hood. 

Locate electrical outlets on the exterior of the fume hood.

Locate utility controls for gas, water, and vacuum on the exterior of the hood with utility outlets mounted on the interior sidewall. Label and color-code controls. This color-coding should be consistent across all laboratories in the building.

Provide a liquid-tight work surface built to contain a depth of at least 3/8-inches of liquid.

Mount cup sinks on a raised lip to partly contain a spill before the liquid flows into the sink. The cup sinks shall be 1/16 of an inch lower than the surrounding raised margins of the work surface.

Biological Safety Cabinets

Only Class II Type B2 cabinets (sometimes referred to as total exhaust) can be used for work with small amounts of volatile toxic chemicals and radionuclides.

Class II Type B1 or A2 cabinets can be used for work with minute quantities of volatile toxic chemicals and tracer amounts of radionuclides if approved by UHS.

Minimal use of alcohol and other cleaning chemicals is permissible in all types of biological safety cabinets.

New Systems

When new ventilation systems, such as variable air volume exhaust, are installed in University facilities, specific policies for their use will be developed by HSRM and employees will be promptly trained on use of the new equipment.