ABC of Safety in the Biological Sciences




In the biological sciences laboratory many of the chemicals and solvents used in testing produce very toxic and hazardous fumes as do many of the processing techniques.

Good general ventilation is essential to rid the atmosphere of fumes given off from test reactions, processors, burners or other specialised methods. It is also necessary to remove other air contaminants such as body odours and excess carbon dioxide produced by staff and to reduce the risk of airborne diseases. In addition, localised ventilation such as a fume hood or pathogen handling cabinet, may be required to remove fumes, organisms or dust which constitute a real health hazard.

A volume of air greater than is supplied should be exhausted from the laboratory to ensure that odours, vapours and gases do not flow from the laboratory into other areas of the building. It is also very important that air exhausted from the laboratory is not recirculated into other parts of the building.

When constructing a new laboratory or renovating an old laboratory considerations for the ventilation requirements are:

  • Negative pressure in the laboratory as related to all adjacent areas.
  • A minimum of two changes of air from outside the building per hour.
  • A complete change of air every ten minutes.
  • All the air from the laboratory exhausted directly to outside the building.

It is very important for the well being of the staff that the ventilation system for any laboratory be designed with the comfort of the staff in mind and that the system can cope with the variety of hazardous agents handled in the laboratory.

Karni, K. et al. (1982)
Clinical Laboratory Management.
Little, Brown & Co.


BACK to the top of the Glossary Contents List
BACK to the top of the Chemical Contents List