From toxic gases to hazardous chemicals, if you work in a lab you handle a variety of materials. OSHA states that the fume hood is the primary control for protecting lab workers from flammable and/or toxic chemicals.
The fume hood captures and contains fumes. Types of fume hoods vary in how they operate. Balance enclosures may be ducted to the outside or connected to a HEPA and/or carbon filter to exhaust back into the laboratory. Ductless fume hoods pass contaminated air through a filter(s) before returning air to the room. These fume hoods are used in locations that do not have outside ventilation. Ducted fume hoods have ventilation to the outside and provide the most rigorous protection, especially for chemically dangerous fumes.
Extractor systems offer localised ventilation at the source of contamination. Extractor arms can be positioned to remove fumes or airborne particulates. These may vent to the outside or recirculate into the room through a filter. A specialty type of enclosure—the PCR enclosure—is designed for PCR experiments and shifts HEPA-filtered air downward. It also has a UV light that eliminates DNA and RNA contaminates.
OHS offers guidance on laboratory safety, which includes engineering controls and air containment standards for specific chemical hazards. For laboratory directors and supervisors who are charged with maintaining the safe operation of the lab, vigilance—coupled with well-chosen, reliable equipment—will limit accidental exposures. Also, appropriate eye protection and safety gloves are necessary when working in a fume hood.
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