Ever wonder where the concept of Laboratory Grade comes from? It starts with the idea that a similar item can be used in multiple environments, yet because of the varying demands of different environments, the product’s performance needs to be matched to the intended use. Take an electrical duplex, they come in many formats, but they have the same end function, to provide an interface point to connect an electrical device. If you were to look at the entire price range of duplexes you would find them priced from about $1 to almost $20 each. Why is that? The performance requirements are assumed to be different for the different applications. In the case of the hospital grade duplex, it has much more holding power to keep a critical medical device from coming unplugged accidentally. So you can say that the performance has been optimized for the intended use. So with laboratory products, the same is true. Laboratories can be challenging environments often containing very expensive equipment and hazardous chemicals.
While storage and work surfaces are a common element in many environments, such as offices and kitchens, the performance requirements are significantly different. So the term Laboratory Grade is used to describe products that are designed with laboratories being the intended use. As a general rule laboratory products are more robust than other classes of products. This is definitely the case with laboratory furniture and fume hoods. These products are designed and built to perform under the rigors of heavy laboratory use.
While laboratory furniture has been built since the late 1800s, there was not a good benchmark to define what performance was appropriate for laboratory use. In the late 1990s SEFA (Scientific Equipment Furniture Association) set out to define Laboratory Grade. One of the first documents was SEFA 8 which focused on laboratory casework. Until that point, products were specified using prescriptive specifications which includes clauses for materials and methods of construction. Since not all suppliers used the same methods it was difficult to determine if a product was truly laboratory grade and would function well in the laboratory environment. So SEFA 8 was a performance specification that set out to define how the product needed to perform, rather than how it was made.
SEFA 8 became the benchmark of how a laboratory product should perform. This was a major departure for the classic method of specifying products, but time proved it to be much better. Using this method a user or architect could compare products to make a side by side comparison of a product’s performance characteristics. As the years passed , SEFA 8 evolved to consider more materials and to include having the product tested by Independent Test Labs and be certified compliant. Since all suppliers were testing the exact same style products under the same conditions the test results offer a good side by side comparison allowing the user to match their need to a product that best fits their needs.
Since SEFA 8, SEFA has expanded it’s Recommended Practices to include the other products used in labs such as worksurfaces, fixtures, chemical storage, and fume hoods. So that when you see the term Laboratory Grade and the phrase Certified SEFA Compliant, you know the products were designed for laboratory use and will stand up to the demands of heavy laboratory usage.
To see SEFA Members who have Certified SEFA Compliant Products, you can go to the SEFA website.
Being Certified SEFA Compliant denotes that a product is Laboratory Grade and that it has been Independently tested to verify it’s performance.
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