Reason Two in the Five-Part Series: How to Maximize Returns on Lab Protocol Change

Change is difficult for people who seem to resist it, for those who readily embrace it, and even for the leaders responsible for driving it. Change also burdens laboratories with small, sometimes unpredictable increases in the cost to perform research and deliver products.  So, doesn’t it seem like a paradox, that the only action costing labs more than change itself, is failure to enact change when necessary

Consider the following costs associated with both passivity and action in this scenario:  

A lab employee spills a strong acid in the fume hood and quickly jumps up just before the acid cascades onto the chair and floor. Although the employee was not hurt, what could happen if another employee was slower to respond? According to the National Council on Compensation Insurance, a passive, “these things happen,” response could incur the average burn-related workers’ compensation claim: nearly $60,0001. The alternative approach is to actively workshop and re-train a modified protocol or to purchase a safety upgrade for equipment – a drastically more affordable option.

Lab and workplace safety: when a digit costs more than an arm and a leg. 

Most tools, chemicals, equipment, and instrumentation in the average lab can significantly threaten staff safety if used improperly. At Progressive AE, we use principals of Universal Design to help lab managers modify the laboratory workspace to maximize the likelihood that a task will be performed both correctly and safely. Below are a few solutions we frequently recommend.  

Type of Incident or Hazard Possible Solution Cost of Investment to Implement 
Repetitive motion injury Arrange supplies within reach; lower on the shelf and shallower on the bench to discourage over-extension Low 
Unsafe equipment usage Eliminate outdated signage; create updated signage in key areas with large, clear symbols and contrasting colors, and use deployment as an opportunity to provide re-training Low 
Bumps and bruises Add non-porous bumpers to sharp corners, then select work surfaces with rounded edges when replacing  Low – Medium 
Repeated procedural errors at certain times of the day Provide anti-fatigue mats as well as adjustable chairs and workstations to reduce distraction from discomfort at the workspace and to allow for variable postures throughout the day Medium 
Chemical spills in the fume hood Select fume hoods with a spill containment lip to prevent unintended contact with chemicals Medium 
Trips, slips, and falls Apply anti-slip floor surface finishes, and visual and tactile warnings for elevation changes. Also provide handrails and enhanced lighting around stairs, and replace stairs with appropriately graded ramps where feasible Medium – High 

Help us continue the conversation! 

How does your lab handle safety-related changes? Could your lab use assistance with upcoming changes? Tell us about your current or future lab or cleanroom and all the interesting challenges that will come with it. We want to hear from you, or even feature your lab in a future article! 


1. N.S.C.I.F. (2019). Workers’ Compensation Costs. National Safety Council.