Dr. Robert K. Haugen
Flow Sciences, Inc.

 

Abstract:

Flow Sciences manufactures containment equipment for the pharmaceutical, chemistry, and education communities. Like many manufacturers serving these customers, we try to build products that work. Particularly with safety equipment, we believe providing protection from fumes and toxic powders is a mission worthy and beneficial to mankind.

We do not believe the question of price to be unimportant, sacrilegious, or presumptive. It is however complicated, misunderstood, and in some cases misapplied, particularly regarding lab containment and safety equipment.

We propose here to review four truths about lab safety equipment pricing. At the end of this examination, the author will demonstrate how to view pricing in a comprehensive and useful manner.


Discussion:

 

Truth one : Before we evaluate a price, we must know how complete the price is.

Flow sciences makes six major categories of containment devices. While each category has unique characteristics, they all share elements and capabilities that influence their price.

Because chemical fume hoods are a staple both in labs and generally in the construction industry, we will focus on fume hood prices as reflective of how price has become a confusing issue in the entire containment industry.

Many times, a “standard fume hood price” does not even include the cost of a work surface. In a specify/provide marketplace, when something is not called out, it is not provided. Buyer beware! In the same market, base cabinets upon which the fume hood rests are only quoted if specified. Most companies making this product charge for shipping from the factory to the jobsite, but make this a separate line item.

All electrical equipment (lights, velocity alarms, fans, fan switches, etc.) are also typically extra. Finally, the equipment shipped must be de-trucked and distributed to rooms, then installed. Many times such expenses are hidden somewhere in a quotation, or ignored.

Before we look a price, at least all these elements highlighted above must be identified and included.


Truth two : Before we evaluate price, we must know if “extra” features we may depend upon are included.

Newer, more advanced aerodynamic fume hoods inherently contain fumes at lower face velocities and will require much lower volumetric throughput to operate. Do you care? Paying about 20% more for an energy efficient hood may cut annual energy costs in half1. Over a 15-year hood life span, this may save $50,000 in energy costs, or three times the original hood cost!

I’d care!

Some hoods are designed to be repaired and maintained easily, others are not. Some hoods have built-in framing and hardware allowing easy addition of monkey bars, most do not. Some hoods have a standard interior working depth over 24”, many do not. Some hoods have interior access panels that cannot dislodge during a fire or explosion, many do not.

The Flow Sciences fume hood has a standard slide-out work top for easy maintenance and standard pre-plumbed flexible service lines for easy repair and service outlet modification during hood life. Are these features important to you?


Truth 3 : Unless a hood contains fumes effectively, it is less than worthless! Institutional liability, personnel injury, and documentable expectations are all reasons why lab accidents and exposure to chemicals are to be avoided at all costs!

Does your recently purchased fume hood come with a test report showing it has been verified through testing to keep even small concentrations of a tracer gas from invading the worker’s breathing zone? Most reputable manufacturers can readily furnish such data for standard product2. Some manufacturers like Flow Sciences furnish reports for custom products too3.

Providing such a report on custom units costs money. Is it worth more money to memorialize the performance of a new containment device? Avoid an injury? Prevent procedural re-dos and litigation at your facility?

Many times in the heat of a legal battle over injury liability, institutions have blamed managers, instructors, and even victims for inviting accident exposure4. What is not realized is most lab safety equipment companies have written and produced safety manuals and videos  explaining proper research technique with their equipment. Flow Sciences has such materials. We have also published many papers on our website detailing tests we do3 and how this research demonstrates containment of our equipment during programmed use 4. Is this data something your company would value?


Truth 4 : If the reader already understands truths 1-3, the question at this juncture is, how can I get an equipment price that includes all the relevant factors discussed above which are important to my research?

The answer to this question may require you develop a written product specification that takes all the guesswork out of quoting your containment device properly. The writer is not talking here about a manufacturer’s proprietary specification, but a spec that truly reflects customer requirements and the complexities discussed so far in this paper. 4

Each subcontractor needs to know where their responsibility begins and ends. Performance of the product should be primary. Metal gauges and number of hinge knuckles secondary.

Many manufacturers have written specifications for their containment products. Flow Sciences publishes theirs in CSI Standard Format, Microsoft Word. We recommend using the FSI specification as a template, and modifying it to call out exactly what is needed in the product you intend to purchase.


Conclusion:

These are the four truths. Satisfy them and your price will be meaningful and accurate:

  • Inclusiveness : All relevant price elements specified and included
  • Features : Specify and include features important to you
  • Safety : Specify and include materials on equipment operation, proper installation, and safe use
  • Memorialization : Provide documentation of performance under specified conditions.

So, how much does it cost? Apply the four truths reviewed above. They might just set you free!


Footnotes:

  1. https://www.flowsciences.com/fume-hood-energy-savings-low-hanging-fruit/, Fig1,
  2. Summary, Containment Testing of Saf T Flow Chemical Fume Hoods, 4/1/19, Flow Sciences Inc., Dr. Bob Haugen
  3. Phase – Off. An Evaluation of a Flow Sciences, Inc. Fume Hood in The Containment of Solids, Liquids and Gases, Allan Goodman and Robert Haugen, Flow Sciences, April 2019 Gase
  4. https://dailybruin.com/2014/10/17/uc-spends-almost-4-5m-in-laboratory-fire-case/
  5. https://www.flowsciences.com/vav-equipment-specified-laboratory-hoods/

For More Information – Contact Us