Labspace frequently asked questions
At LabSpace Africa, we love receiving your questions and requests!
But quite often, great minds think alike, and we receive similar questions from readers attempting to setup new laboratories in Africa.
In this article we address some of the questions we are most often asked in the hopes of providing clarity in the muddy waters of laboratory setup in Africa.
How do you eat an elephant? The simple answer: one bite at a time.
As with most seemingly insurmountable tasks, our best advice would be to break down the complexity of setting up a new laboratory into smaller, more manageable projects. We have compiled a condensed list of four of the most important consideration that should be made when setting up a new, highly productive, profitable laboratory:
The function of your intended laboratory will largely dictate its requirements, layout and overall setup. Prepare a clear vision and mission of your laboratory that includes its intended function, size and number of staff you intend to employ.
Keep these plans handy when approaching all the subsequent decision-making steps. It will serve as the golden thread that draws the various loose ends together to setup a cohesive, productive laboratory.
Based on our collective experience at LabSPACE, we have found that the physical layout of a lab serves as the foundation on which its functionality and productivity is built. Once your lab becomes profitable, equipment and training can be improved upon, but your lab’s layout is unlikely to be changed without dramatic costs involved.
Therefore, we urge you to take your time when planning the layout of your new lab!
Your lab’s infrastructure is one of the first features to prepare for. This refers to the permanent features of your physical space.
Some features may include appropriate floor and bench top materials. It will also include features such as suitable entrances to allow for delivery and servicing of large equipment, a suitable number of accessible restrooms for staff and visitors and sufficient storage space specific to your requirements.
We also recommend keeping similar functional spaces separate.
Let’s clarify. You should try to separate high-traffic areas from hazardous workspaces. You should plan strategic locations for large, frequently used instruments, keeping administrative and hazardous areas separate.
Once you have determined your space requirements, you should study its “functional flow”.
We recommend visualising how these spaces can come together for the most productive workflow in your allocated space. The aim of this exercise is to optimise the productivity without compromising staff safety and limiting contamination.
As previously mentioned, we believe that no two labs are the same and lab equipment requirements are no different. Based on the main function of your lab, your list of lab equipment will be unique.
To get your equipment list off to a good start, we have compiled a condensed list of the basic equipment necessities. We discuss these in more detail in the questions to follow.
Once you have established your equipment list, make sure to compensate for storage required to accommodate your equipment and consumables. Insufficient storage could lead to a cluttered lab that makes it notoriously challenging to maintain a sterile working environment
We urge you to never compromise on your laboratory’s safety features. Period.
Regardless of budget, your lab needs sufficient and appropriate safety measures in place to not only protect your staff and visitors, but also its instruments and resources long term.
Some basic safety features you need to consider may include:
Accredited safety training for all laboratory staff.
Bio-safety cabinets to avoid contamination.
Waste disposal management.
Electrical systems with appropriate wiring.
Chemically resistant work surfaces.
Safety goggles, visors, gloves, lab coats or full protective equipment.
More specialized safety measures will be necessary depending on the function of your laboratory. Furthermore, safety features should be continuously upgraded, updated, and tested to maintain your lab and its staff’s safety.
For a more detailed discussion regarding our recommended considerations when setting up a laboratory in Africa, please read the full article here.