Engineering controls

The first and best strategy is to control the hazard at its source. Engineering controls do this, unlike other controls that generally focus on the employee exposed to the hazard. The basic concept behind engineering controls is that, to the extent feasible, the work environment and the job itself should be designed to eliminate hazards or reduce exposure to hazards.

Engineering controls can be simple in some cases. They are based on the following principles:

  • If feasible, design the facility, equipment, or process to remove the hazard or substitute something that is not hazardous.
  • If removal is not feasible, enclose the hazard to prevent exposure in normal operations.
  • Where complete enclosure is not feasible, establish barriers or local ventilation to reduce exposure to the hazard in normal operations.

Some of the engineering controls used in labs are:

Fume hoods

Chemical fume hoods, when used properly, are one of the most reliable engineering controls in the laboratory. They protect workers by:

  • Containing vapors, dusts, gases, and fumes generated within the hood, and removing them as air flows into the hood and then out via the laboratory exhaust system
  • Contributing to laboratory ventilation as air flows through the hood
  • Shielding the worker with a clear sliding window, called a sash, that contains aerosols and prevents injury from splashes, fires, or minor explosions that may occur inside the hood

Biological Safety Cabinets

The biological safety cabinet is the most commonly used containment device for work with biohazardous agents or materials. Biological safety cabinets that are installed, certified, and used correctly offer user, environmental, and product protection from biohazards, but much of this protection is lost if the cabinet is installed or used incorrectly.

Because of this potential hazard, NIH recommends that each institute develop policies for required uses and acceptable installation parameters for biological safety cabinets.