Scientific Experience | On the Bench

5 Most Common Lab Equipment Malfunctions & How to Prevent Them

Imagine this — you’ve spent a hefty amount of your budget sourcing expensive equipment and valuable supplies for your research and development work. One small malfunction, and you’re stuck with a piece of equipment that doesn’t work, potentially costing your lab time and money that you don’t have.

Minor errors and improper implementation of safety procedures can harm your high-cost investments, intellectual property, and years of research progress. More importantly, it leads to potential lab safety issues and general chaos.

To avoid chaos and safety risks in the first place, here are the five most common lab equipment malfunctions that you need to know about.

1. Calibration Error

Do you calibrate your lab equipment regularly?

If not, you’re putting your data at risk of inaccuracy, which could eventually interfere with your experiments. There are many services and software programs available to ensure proper calibration of your valuable lab equipment and it can significantly improve lab safety.

2. Equipment Repair

Just like every other piece of machinery, lab items also wear out and may stop working. Do you wait for them to stop working entirely before disposing of them or replacing faulty parts? At that point— it’s too late.

Just like our bodies, lab equipment needs regular maintenance and updates to live a long life.  Especially with larger and more expensive equipment, regular repair increases their lifespan and fits well into your budget. Identifying which parts wear off quicker than the others will help you keep a sufficient supply so you can stop the equipment from breaking down abruptly and obstructing your experiment.

3. Lack of Inspection

Industrial labs usually undergo an annual or bi-annual inspection. This inspection is based on various factors like safety practices of the lab, cost management, employee satisfaction, checking lab supplies and equipment and most importantly, tracking the progress of experiments being conducted. They draw attention to any warning signs within the lab and suggest ways to avoid accidents before they take place.

4. Chemical Interactions

When flammable or reactive materials are stored improperly, they can give rise to hazardous accidents and injuries. These accidents do more than just damage lab property. They can harm your lab teammates physically. Some reactive lab chemicals can be destructive and in case of leakage, can affect the areas and people surrounding your labs, causing damage to important equipment, furniture, and supplies. To avoid these accidents, ensure proper storage and usage of reactive chemicals and if possible, use them in isolation to avoid harm to others.

5. Loss of Intellectual Property

Losing your samples and research results can affect your research project and the lab growth immensely. This doesn’t just push back research timelines and add a financial burden to the lab budget, but also lowers the enthusiasm and morale of the researchers working on the experiments.

Storing data digitally in a secure and password-protected environment can ensure lifetime access to your data. Additionally, you can create a backup on your drive regularly to avoid system crashes and loss of your valuable data.

Your lab is a place of learning and research where each data point is crucial to a discovery. In a high-stakes  environment like the lab, mishandling equipment or supplies or making errors that harm the space and people in it can prove lethal. Enforce strict safety guidelines and train your labmates on why they’re important.

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