The life sciences business needs to improve lab design and processes as a result of COVID-19. This requires a quicker pace of expansion than in other industries. For most lab employees, remote work is not a viable option. To do any kind of research, testing, or product development, lab staff need specialized equipment, supplies, and working conditions that are only available in lab environments. This is where professionally designed laboratory automation can benefit the lab processes significantly .
COVID-19: Short-Term Solutions
The life sciences industry adapted laboratory operations and design in order to meet the necessary health and safety measures. Some larger companies built COVID-19 testing facilities for on-site employees. These facilities ranged from modular to prefabricated, or permanent changes. Other facilities required a redesign at the spur of the moment to ensure that staff could continue to work with the utmost safety.
Many organizations adopted extensive cleaning procedures, such as the heavy use of sanitizer, which have been commonplace in the hospitality and medical industries. This is because laboratory equipment that’s used much more frequently — such as benchtops, equipment handles, controls, and touchpads — has a higher chance of infection.
These procedures allow for immediate, short-term solutions to keep workers safe. But innovations in lab design and laboratory automation systems can allow companies to maintain a safer work environment, in the case of another infectious disease outbreak.
Lab Design for a Pandemic-Proof Work Area
Life sciences organizations were not properly prepared or never planned for a pandemic, and many scientists are predicting other pandemics will likely occur in our lifetime. Life sciences organizations will need to be prepared for that possibility, and they will need the help of lab automation companies. These updated lab designs may use techniques popular in other biosafety-level labs that use a unidirectional workflow.
Safe air circulation can benefit from a unidirectional workflow. It enables employees to come into work on one side of the building and exit work on another side. A model such as this also offers private office suites or labs, which aid in social distancing. Finally, it can accommodate and compartmentalize testing for infectious diseases. Restrooms can be stationed, primarily and strategically, at the entrance and exit.
These new facilities must also implement better protocols for both employees and visitors, such as prohibiting employees from bringing with them any personal item that cannot fit in a designated tote provided by the employer.
HVAC specialists will need to upgrade air filtration and exhaust systems. However, these upgrades might require some major spending regardless of whether it’s a new lab or an existing one. Smart building systems, in consultation with laboratory automation companies, can even adjust settings to improve your building’s efficiency and lower utility costs while wireless sensors can provide air quality monitoring in real-time. The ideal situation, however, would use control systems requiring 100% outdoor air for labs.
Contact Retisoft to learn how laboratory automation systems can be integrated into your lab processes.