ABC of Safety in the Biological Sciences - Alarm

 

ABC of Safety in the Biological Sciences

 

 

ALARM

A signal device, audible or visual, for diverting the attention to a potential problem or danger usually in storage or processing. Alarms can be remote or local. In a biological sciences laboratory or laboratory storage area, especially for chemicals and solvents, alarms may be required for the detection of:

  • smoke
  • fire
  • hazardous fumes
  • equipment malfunction during processing
  • a breakdown in refrigerators, low temperature storage facilities, blood bank refrigerators and freezers and autopsy room refrigerators.

Smoke or fire
Alarms should be fitted over the area of greatest potential danger, such as chemical storage cabinets, heating equipment, electrical equipment and any area of the laboratory where a naked flame is required, e.g. bunsen burner. Smoke and fire detection alarms can be remotely connected to the nearest fire station.

Hazardous fumes
a) Lapel badge monitors.
The Occupational Health and Safety Products Division of The Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing Company manufacture a range of lapel badge monitors for staff working in close association with hazardous vapours. They also provide an analysis service if your laboratory does not have the appropriate gas chromatography equipment for developing the badges. Specifically, there are badges to monitor mercury vapour, ethylene oxide vapour, formaldehyde vapour and there is an organic vapour monitor which can be used to detect over 135 organic vapours.

b) Personal air pollution sampler.
Used to monitor the air which a worker breathes. The personal sampler draws in air by a small diaphragm pump through a sampling head attached near the wearer's breathing zone. It is designed to be worn for a full shift without impeding the wearer with their work. Samplers are available from major laboratory supply companies in most countries or by mail order from Baird and Tatlock (see reference).

c) Toxic dust, gas and vapour kits.
Are available from the major laboratory supply companies in most countries or by mail order from Baird and Tatlock (see reference).

d) Toxic dust, gas and vapour sensor.
Can be installed where there is the potential for a specific dust, gas or vapour hazard to develop. The alarm can be remotely connected to the nearest fire station or to an area of the institution which is manned for 24 hours each day such as a duty orderly or telephone switchboard.

Equipment malfunction during processing
If equipment is left unattended for any lengthy period of time, the alarm should be remotely connected to an area that is occupied for 24 hours each day, such as a duty orderly or telephone switchboard. The alarm can consist of a simple signal device such as a bell or siren which is activated when a malfunction or interruption occurs during a processing procedure. The equipment can be connected to a printer or monitor which will give a continuous picture of the status of the equipment and give an early indication of a developing fault in equipment. Storage facilities, such as blood bank freezers, are usually fitted with both an audible alarm and a permanent monitoring system which continuously records the status of the unit enabling failures to be pinpointed accurately.

References
Baird and Tatlock (1983)
Laboratory Apparatus and Scientific Instruments.
Eyre and Spottiswoode Ltd., Thanet Press, Margate, England.

Fisher Chemical Co. (1988)
Fisher 208 Catalog.
Fisher Scientific International Springfield, New Jersey, U.S.A.

Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing Company (1988)
Occupational Health and Safety Products Division,
Monitor Analytical Service ­ Building 230­B, P.O. Box 33125, St. Paul,
Minnesota 55133­3125, USA, or enquiries can be made through local offices in many countries.

 

 

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