If possible, however, it’s also pleasant to have some natural daylight (which tends to have a slightly higher color temperature of 5,000 to 6,000 K). This means that big windows are a real asset, but blinds are needed to protect against too much direct sunlight, which can interfere with, for example, microscopy work or fluorescence-based markers.
As lab work often requires high levels of concentration, noise can be highly disruptive – leading to reduced comfort, lower working efficiency, and even avoidable errors. In many professions there are regulations about noise as an occupational hazard. However, in order to be comfortable, it’s important to not just comply with these regulations, but to remain well below these limits.
Typical regulations regarding hazardous noise often have limits of around 80 dB (similar to a car horn). Limits for high-concentration office work on the other hand are usually set much lower at around 35–40 dB. Ideally, labs should stick to these levels as well, but of course there’s work to be done and not all lab equipment can operate silently.
Centrifuges, for example, are a common source of noise
, especially in life science labs, often producing noise at around 50 dB. Other common sources of noise include PCR cyclers, fridges/ freezers, and moving parts of, for example, plate readers or shakers. To improve working comfort, it helps to use low-noise equipment, consider where to place the equipment, and make sure they’re set up and used properly – loose moving parts are a common source of noise.
Air quality and temperature
Another factor that affects working comfort is air temperature and quality. Good temperature measurement and control improves efficiency through creating a comfortable working environment. In many cases, it’s also a legal requirement, for example in clinical labs
In most situations, the standards for offices are suitable for labs as well, so most labs maintain a temperature of 21–22 °C and a relative humidity of 40–60%. Specific guidelines recommend 20–25 °C and 35–50% relative humidity
, but in labs where temperature can affect experiments (such as certain quality control testing labs) requirements may be even stricter. Keep in mind that higher temperatures in the lab can be self-energizing by cooling devices as freezers or refrigerated centrifuges. The instruments register the increased room temperature and trigger their compressors to counter-cool. While producing cold, the compressors emit heat to the lab.
Temperature is a subjective aspect, especially when using the complete set of PPE (personal protective equipment).