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Understanding laboratory ventilation codes


Clinical laboratories are often on-site and associated with hospitals, but many times these facilities are independent and located away from the source of patient care and treatment. Regardless of the lab location, published rules and regulations apply to the design, layout, finishes, equipment, ventilation, and operation of the facility. While this article identifies many of the latest code and standard editions, it is always prudent to check with the local and state authorities having jurisdiction (AHJ) to confirm the latest adopted version.

Clinical labs have multiple functions and generally include such uses as general chemistry, hematology, urinalysis, pathology-histology, cytology, frozen section, chemical and specimen storage, and refrigerated blood storage. Some laboratories also contain and process hazardous and/or flammable materials or radioactive materials, and they require specific hood types and storage containers with limits on quantities of material. NFPA 45 (2011), Standard on Fire Protection for Laboratories Using Chemicals, is the basic NFPA standard for laboratories. It covers the construction, ventilation systems, and related fire protection for all laboratories in all facilities. However, Chapter 11 of NFPA 99 (2005 Edition), Standard for Healthcare Facilities, has more stringent requirements for laboratories located in healthcare facilities. The primary focus of each of these standards is to establish criteria to minimize the hazards of fire and explosions in laboratories. The standards are not intended to cover hazards resulting from the misuse of chemicals, radioactive materials, or biological materials that will not result in fires or explosions. However, many of the requirements that protect against fire or explosions, such as those for hood exhaust systems, also serve to protect individuals from exposure to nonfire health hazards of the material.

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