A Lab Door is a Closed Door
Keeping your lab door shut is more important than you may think. Most often doors are left open out of a matter of convenience, but safety outweighs any amount of convenience every time. You may unknowingly be putting yourself and others in harm’s way just to save a little time and effort.
Some labs on campus leave their door wide open with the assumption that the negative pressure system is functioning properly. The negative pressure system creates high pressure in the hallway and low pressure in the lab. This makes the air move into the lab from the hallway and prevents lab air from going out into the hallway when someone enters or exits the lab. The problem is that propped open doors can compromise the effectiveness of this ventilation system. The negative pressure system is designed to work at optimal levels when all the lab doors are kept closed.
The air inside of a lab is exhausted outside of the building to ensure air is never recirculated. This is especially important for chemical safety. If an accidental spill were to occur, a closed door would confine the chemical odor and vapor to the laboratory space allowing it to be properly exhausted out of the building. If the lab door is open, the contaminated air could keep recirculating and cause a potentially dangerous situation.
Alan Snedeker, the Assistant Director of Fire Safety, asks that all lab doors be kept shut at all times, for both fire safety and ventilations system concerns. Most labs have fire rated doors to protect personnel in case of a fire. In order for that door to protect the occupants, that door needs to be kept closed at all times.
Labs that handle or store biological materials have another reason to keep their door shut. This University’s policies are based on the Biosafety in Microbiological and Biomedical Laboratories 5th Edition, written by the CDC. It states that BL1 labs shall have doors for access control. An open door is not controlling access. In addition, all BL2 labs are required to have self closing doors. If your lab door is open, your lab and this campus are not in compliance with campus policy or the CDC.
Many research projects involve the use of multiple labs and open doors can make it much easier to move between them. The problem is that open doors are neither safe nor compliant. Since lab doors need to be closed, it is important to remember that gloved hands should not touch door handles or be worn out in the hallways. Before you leave a lab space remove your gloves and wash your hands. If you need to carry something, place a new clean glove on only one hand. The gloved hand is then used to carry the object, while your clean ungloved hand is free to touch door knobs, elevator buttons, etc.
There are many other situations where open lab doors will seem ideal. If you feel you need to keep your lab door open, please contact The Biosafety Office at 274-2830 or Lab Safety Office at 278-6150 and we will figure out a way for you to conduct your work and still be compliant.