What Other Departments do I Need to Contact, if I’m Buying a Piece of Equipment?

Congratulations on being able to buy equipment for your laboratory! Usually, the supervisor has looked into several vendors’ versions of the equipment, researched cost (outright and down the road), and looked to see if it would fit in allotted space. Then comes the matter to convincing department manager that there is a need to spend the money. But what other departments might need to be contacted, way before the decision to buy is made?

ENGINEERING: Get a drawing of the area – floors, walls, ceiling. It helps to find water lines, electrical lines, etc. It will also help to plot out if there is the right location – does it add steps to the workflow, do you have to back-track, go in a different room, etc.? Can you find extra space that you hadn’t considered for storage of new supplies? And remember, drawings are not always accurate, so check!

What size electrical line? Where should it be hooked in? Where are the nearest plugs? How easy, and at what cost, is it going to take to drop another line right there.

And what about running water – hot or cold, does it need to be at a regulated temperature? What about drainage? Can the trap and the pipes handle the type of chemicals coming out of the equipment?

How big is the equipment? How heavy? Will the counter/floor be able to handle the equipment? Will it fit through the door? In the elevator?

VENTILATION: Maybe this is Maintenance, maybe you need to bring in an outside company. What is your current ventilation in that area? What direction will the fumes be going – past the noses and the eyes of the people using the equipment? If a large piece of equipment is placed there, what direction will the air flow be going now? Are the fumes heavier than air, so a backdraft ventilation is needed? What is the material in the ventilation ducts? Can it handle the chemicals coming from the equipment?

SAFETY: What chemicals are being used? Is there anything radioactive? Is the equipment UL tested? Is there enough electrical power? What happens if there is a 6” flood of water in the room? Or water pouring from the ceiling? What type of safety training will need to be done for the people using the equipment? Are there SDS (Safety Data Sheets) available? How much space is required to allow people to pass through in case of an evacuation? Any ergonomic issues?

WASTE MANAGEMENT:  This may be part of your Safety Department. In your locale, what are you allowed to pour down the sink? How much per day/week/month/year? If you cannot dispose of the waste down the sink, is there a company that Safety is currently working, with willing to haul the waste away? At what cost? Is there a way to neutralize the material first? How labor intensive? What safety concerns for the people neutralizing the material? At what cost? What if there is a spill on the floor – where is the floor drain? How fast can the water treatment plant be notified about a spill into the waste water line? Is there a way to prevent the spill from getting to the drain, such as putting the recycler or the tissue processor in a large “spill pan”?

INSURANCE/RISK MANAGEMENT: Is there going to be an increase in the possibility of a flood, fire, waste release, etc? How much is that going to cost in additional insurance? Is there a better location to reduce these risks? What types of alarms will be needed if there is a problem? Who should be notified?

FIRE MARSHAL: Have a fresh set of eyes look at electrical equipment, evacuation routes, rescue routes, and let the fire marshal know what new chemicals are coming into the laboratory.

It is much better to get all these departments involved early in the decision making, rather than AFTER the equipment has been bought and is now setting in the hall outside your lab.