Common Mistakes to Avoid When Using Laboratory Fume Hoods

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Laboratory fume hoods are crucial safety devices that protect laboratory personnel from hazardous fumes, vapors, and airborne particles. However, improper use or neglect of fume hoods can compromise their effectiveness, leading to potential risks and accidents. Global Lab Supply understands the importance of proper fume hood usage and maintenance to ensure a safe working environment. In this article, we will discuss common mistakes to avoid when using laboratory fume hoods, providing practical guidance to enhance safety and efficiency in the laboratory.

Failure to Verify Proper Functionality:

One of the most critical mistakes is failing to verify the proper functionality of the fume hood before use. Prior to conducting any experiment or procedure, it is essential to check that the fume hood is working correctly. Ensure that the sash operates smoothly, the airflow indicators are functioning, and the alarm systems are operational. This step is crucial to maintain a safe working environment and prevent potential exposure to hazardous substances.

Inadequate Sash Height:

Improper sash height is a common mistake that can compromise the containment efficiency of the fume hood. It is crucial to maintain the appropriate sash height to ensure an adequate airflow pattern within the hood. Keep the sash at the designated height marked on the hood, typically between 18 and 20 inches. Avoid opening the sash too wide or leaving it partially closed, as this can disrupt the airflow and compromise the hood’s effectiveness.

Overloading the Fume Hood:

Overloading the fume hood with excessive equipment, chemicals, or apparatus can obstruct the airflow and reduce the containment capabilities. It is important to maintain a clear and unobstructed workspace within the hood. Avoid cluttering the hood with unnecessary items and ensure that all materials are properly arranged to allow for proper airflow and optimal containment.

Poor Awareness of Airflow Patterns:

Having a clear understanding of the airflow patterns within the fume hood is crucial for effective containment. Failure to position equipment, apparatus, or hands in the correct location within the hood can disrupt the airflow patterns and compromise the containment. Be aware of the designated airflow patterns (horizontal or vertical) and ensure that materials and activities are appropriately positioned to maximize containment efficiency.

Neglecting Regular Maintenance:

Regular maintenance of laboratory fume hoods is essential for their optimal performance and longevity. Neglecting routine maintenance tasks, such as filter changes, airflow calibrations, and inspections, can lead to diminished containment efficiency and compromised safety. Follow the manufacturer’s guidelines for maintenance and engage qualified technicians for periodic inspections and servicing to ensure the fume hood’s proper functionality.

FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions):

Q1. How often should fume hoods be inspected and tested for safety?

Regular inspections and testing are crucial to ensure the ongoing safety and effectiveness of laboratory fume hoods. It is recommended to establish a maintenance schedule that includes periodic inspections, airflow measurements, filter replacements, and calibration of critical components. The frequency of these activities may vary based on factors such as the type of hood, the nature of the work, and institutional guidelines. Consult with the manufacturer’s recommendations or a qualified technician for specific maintenance requirements.

Q2. Can multiple operators use the same fume hood simultaneously?

In certain cases, multiple operators may need to use the same fume hood simultaneously. However, caution must be exercised to avoid overcrowding and interference with airflow patterns. It is important to ensure that each operator maintains proper distance and positioning to allow for effective containment and airflow within the hood. Establish clear guidelines and protocols for simultaneous usage to maintain safety and efficiency.

Q3. What should be done in the event of a power outage or loss of airflow?

In the event of a power outage or loss of airflow, it is important to take immediate action to prevent potential exposure to hazardous substances. Follow these steps:

Close the sash of the fume hood to minimize the entry of hazardous materials.

Evacuate the laboratory if necessary, especially if there is a risk of imminent exposure.

Notify the appropriate personnel, such as laboratory supervisors or facility management, to address the issue promptly.

Seek assistance from qualified technicians or maintenance personnel to restore power or airflow to the fume hood.

Q4. What personal protective equipment (PPE) should be worn when working with fume hoods?

When working with fume hoods, it is important to wear appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) as per the specific requirements of the laboratory and the materials being handled. PPE may include lab coats, gloves, safety goggles, and respiratory protection devices, depending on the nature of the substances being used. Consult the lab’s safety guidelines and the relevant material safety data sheets (MSDS) for guidance on PPE requirements.

Q5. Can fume hoods eliminate all risks associated with hazardous materials?

While fume hoods are effective safety devices, it is important to note that they are not a guarantee of complete safety. Fume hoods are designed to control and contain hazardous substances, but they do not eliminate all risks. Proper training, adherence to safety protocols, and the use of additional safety measures, such as secondary containment systems and appropriate PPE, are essential to minimize risks associated with hazardous materials.


Proper usage of laboratory fume hoods is crucial for ensuring the safety of laboratory personnel and maintaining a controlled working environment. By avoiding common mistakes such as failing to verify functionality, maintaining proper sash height, avoiding overloading, being aware of airflow patterns, and conducting regular maintenance, the containment efficiency and effectiveness of fume hoods can be maximized. Global Lab Supply encourages adherence to proper fume hood usage and offers guidance and expertise to ensure the safe and efficient operation of laboratory fume hoods.

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