In a perfect world, your laboratory’s space would be perfect from the start and meet your lab’s needs for the duration of your operations. But we all know that this isn’t how things usually happen.
Sometimes you have to downsize, or a larger space becomes available. Sometimes your operations move around, your building is renovated, or circumstances simply change and you have to relocate your lab.
If this is the case for you, you may find the following laboratory relocation guide helpful.
Prepare Before You Move
You should start planning your move as soon as you know that new lab space is going to become available. Whether you’re upsizing, downsizing, or moving to a space of the same size you should spend plenty of time inspecting your new space.
Decide in advance where you will place your large equipment and cabinets. You may find that your current cabinet setup is no longer ideal. In that case, you may want to consider custom cabinets to customize the space more effectively.
Check to see that there are sufficient electrical outlets where you need them. If you’re in an area that’s prone to earthquakes, check for seismic restraints on existing shelves. Labs in hurricane or tornado-prone areas may need a backup generator and reinforcement on the roof; make sure that these environmental needs are met before you begin the move.
You should also take this time to address any special facility needs and to check if the previous occupants have left behind equipment or materials. If this is the case, you may be able to use them, or you may need to dispose of them.
Inventory and Accounting
Before you move, you should go through everything in your lab and identify it. Check to see if there are materials that you no longer need or that are expired, and dispose of them appropriately.
You don’t want to take unnecessary stock to your new facility’s storage. This is an important part of laboratory logistics!
If you find unknown or unlabeled chemicals, set them aside and consult your lab’s university or parent organization to determine the next steps to take. If there’s a chance that they are hazardous materials, this will minimize risk. Some chemicals will be able to be re-labeled, but there may be true unknowns that require further consultation.
For all remaining chemical supplies, make sure that all containers are well-labeled and have clearly marked expiration dates. Package your chemicals in separate boxes to prevent incompatibles from mixing together.
Failure to keep them separated could result in fire, explosion, or toxic release. You should group chemicals by their hazard class, meaning that you should have separate containers for bases, toxic chemicals, mineral acids, flammable chemicals, water-reactive chemicals, corrosive chemicals, and oxidizers/oxidizing acids.
Track your chemicals as you’re moving; create a master inventory list that lets you note when chemicals are packed, when they are moved, and when they are unpacked. Packing your chemicals requires sturdy, partitioned boxes. To prevent breakage and contain spills, cushion the containers with absorbent materials such as vermiculite.
Highly toxic chemicals require secondary containment in an impermeable container so that all spills will be contained. Noxious or chemicals with strong odors also require double-sealed containers to prevent fumes from building up in elevators and hallways.
If you are taking chemical storage, such as unsecured cabinets or chemical storage refrigerators, they must be completely dry prior to moving them. The interior surfaces should be wiped down with bleach and allowed to air dry to prevent any cross-contamination.
As you are packing your lab, check under fume hoods and spaces behind equipment for any old lab supplies that may have been dropped or left behind. This is totally normal, and usually, these items are unimportant and just need to be disposed of.
Finally, be very cognizant of gas cylinders and lecture bottles. Many corrosive gases have a six-month use-by date before they start corroding the valve system. If you have any gas cylinders of this nature, do not take them with you to the new lab; instead, dispose of them properly.
If your lab has biological materials that may be hazardous upon exposure, you must take care to pack and label these correctly. Potentially hazardous biological material includes all human and animal tissues, blood, blood products, and other body fluids.
Infectious materials should only be handled by people listed on your laboratory’s biohazard authorization; if none of these people are available for the move, you need to check with your lab’s director for appropriate next steps.
When transporting biological materials, you can achieve maximum protection with double containment. You should label all biological material containers with the type of material, and the name and phone number of the lab manager, supervisor, or PI. Label with the international Biohazard symbol if appropriate; your lab likely has biohazard stickers, or you can print them out.
Make sure that everybody on your lab’s moving team is aware of the risks of chemical transportation. If your facility has hired professional movers, make sure that all equipment and chemicals are properly labeled and that there is no room for misunderstandings.
If your lab is relying on lab employees to move chemicals, make sure that your employees know how to safely lift objects with their knees, not with their backs.
If a chemical or biohazardous spill occurs while moving, isolate the area and alert anybody who might be moving through. Evacuate the area if necessary. Some spills may require flushing with water; others may require other types of absorption.
Setting Up The New Lab
Once you’ve taken everything to the new space, set up any chemical storage cabinets and refrigerators. Immediately safely stow chemicals and hazardous materials and make sure that your chemicals are separated by risk type.
After all, chemicals are stored safely, survey the area using this checklist.
- Is there a working emergency eyewash and shower accessible within 100 feet of your lab?
- Do you need to contact local environmental health and safety authorities about biohazard use authorization?
- Do you have your emergency notification placard or labels on the door?
- Are hazardous work areas, doors, and equipment identified and posted?
- Are fire extinguishers present and accessible within the lab?
- Are incompatible chemicals separated (it never hurts to double-check this)?
- Do you have secondary containment for highly toxic or reactive chemicals?
- Are large containers and heavy objects stored close to the floor?
- Are gas cylinders secured to the wall?
- Is there a sharps container for broken glass?
- Do your aisles have a minimum safe clearance? This is usually 28” but may vary.
- Are your fume hoods and biosecurity cabinets pulling air?
We hope that this list of what to consider when relocating a lab was helpful! If you’re moving laboratory spaces and are considering re-outfitting your lab with new lab chairs, custom countertops, tables, or workstations, bespoke cabinetry and casework, top-of-the-line biosafety cabinets and fume hoods, or any other laboratory furnishings, OnePointe Solutions can help.
If you’re relocating your lab, now is the perfect opportunity to solve future logistical issues by preventing them with a workspace tailor-made to fit your needs. Call us at (866)612-7312 or contact us today to speak with a specialist about not just moving, but also improving your lab.