the systems view blog

Applying our perspective to industry topics and trends

September 28, 2017

Safe from Sound Training: Educating & Empowering Equipment Users

Did you know that about 90% of laboratory accidents are caused by operator error, with another main cause being improper use of equipment? When applied to lab environments using specialty and hazardous gases, this statistic is even more alarming because it further raises the stakes. Working with such molecules is inherently dangerous, and even small accidents can have big safety consequences.

This reality is further complicated by the fact that users in R&D and similarly structured educational or low-volume manufacturing environments typically do not interact with the equipment used to handle these gases on a consistent basis. Unlike a semiconductor fab, where gas delivery systems are running continuously, a researcher is more likely to use their gas handling equipment in sporadic intervals, depending on the type of experiment or project they are conducting. This means these users do not have extensive hands-on time to familiarize themselves with the ins and outs of the system’s operation; they are not expert in the equipment’s use, leaving more room for human error.

It is especially critical for organizations with these types of environments to take every precaution to keep their users safe. At AES, we consider this to be a two-fold challenge.

#1: EMPOWER Users with Equipment that’s Intuitive

Equipment in R&D, educational, and low-volume manufacturing environments should be tailored for its intended use. It is likely that their users don’t require the intricate functionality and interactivity that, for example, operators in a large-scale production environment would need. In fact, those added features may end up overwhelming a user not intimately aware of how to set up and manage discrete functions – actually turning them into potential safety pitfalls.

They do, however, still need a system solution that will give them the gas delivery precision that accurate experimentation demands. That is why AES has developed two different lines of equipment offerings, SEMI-GAS® and VERSA-GAS™. While SEMI-GAS® systems include all the ‘bells and whistles’ that a high volume, high innovation fab or plant needs to meet stringent production requirements, VERSA-GAS™ is an ideal option for more research-based, low-volume applications that still require highly precise and pure gas delivery.

VERSA-GAS’™ versatile systems are optimized first and foremost for safety via user-friendly, intuitive operation, with control technology that takes Human Interface Design into account to ensure users are instinctively driven to interact with the equipment in the proper way. For example, Emergency Off (EMO) switches are large, distinctive pushbutton shapes that can be easily activated with a hand slap. We also group indicators by their operation on the controller face to help users quickly recognize the system’s status and identify the proper steps for the task at hand.

As you can see, by implementing equipment that is tailored for the application and ergonomically optimized to the needs of its users, you can help ensure gas delivery systems are operated in a consistent, proper manner to reduce the risk of accidents.

#2: EDUCATE Users with Expert, Hands-On Training

No matter how intuitive the gas delivery system is to operate, users still need thorough training on its effective operation, as well as education on how to safely store, handle, and manage the gases and chemicals their processes require. Giving them access to Safety Data Sheets (SDS) will certainly provide valuable instruction on the safe use and potential hazards associated with the particular material they are handling. But, getting hands-on equipment training is the way to truly reinforce what is captured in SDSs, and help users become comfortable and confident in effectively interacting with the system.

As part of our Applied Services, AES offers this kind of comprehensive equipment training. Our specialized field service technicians and engineers will join your users on-site to walk through all aspects of equipment operation, thoroughly explaining OSHA-compliant procedures and physically stepping through processes and routines. Because these techs helped build the equipment being used, they are expert in their functionality, and work diligently to transfer their knowledge to users. Our services also include remote support, so if users have questions post-training, they can quickly connect with our experts for answers.

The combination of well-designed equipment and hands-on education can go a long way in helping to mitigate safety issues and keep users protected. That is why it is important to partner with a gas delivery systems provider that can address both sides of this equation effectively, with solutions and services tailored to your unique application, operating environment, and user profiles.

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