Laboratory Design Guidelines

This document was designed as a reference tool to assist those involved in laboratory design, construction and renovation projects in meeting safety standards applicable to McGill University. It includes references to McGill procedures and policies, thus this document is not intended for a non-McGill audience. Further, it refers to regulations and standards that are specific to Quebec and Canada, however many of the reference standards are universal and persons from outside the McGill community may still find the document useful. Comments and suggestions from all readers are most welcome.

It is not possible for this document to be all-encompassing because laboratories are diverse in activities and their required design features and any good design process should begin with a detailed assessment of the procedures to be conducted, the quantities, types and frequencies of hazardous materials and agents involved, and information on the occupants themselves and their work environment requirements. This document will provide maximum benefit upon completion of such an assessment.


1. Laboratory Ventilation

1.1 Fume hoods

All new laboratory fume hoods shall conform to the CSA Standard Z316.5-15 Fume Hoods and Associated Exhaust Systems.

In cases of existing fume hoods undergoing upgrades or renovations, every effort shall be made to meet the requirements of CSA Standard Z316.5-15. Ductless fume hoods, also known as recirculating fume hoods, are not recognized by CSA as they are not considered as acceptable substitutes for ducted fume hoods. All fume hoods shall be equipped with an audible and visual alarm for indicating that the face velocity has fallen below the recommended set point.

1.2 Biological Safety Cabinets

All Class I and Class II biological safety cabinet installation and testing must conform to the National Sanitation Foundation NSF/ANSI 49-2004a: Class II (Laminar Flow) Biosafety Cabinetry standard. Such cabinets should be certified by the supplier at the time of installation. They also need to be certified whenever they are moved as well as annually. The Environmental Health and Safety Office should be advised of any new installations to ensure they become part of the routine annual certification process.

1.3 Canopy Hoods

Canopy hoods i.e., overhead hoods are only intended to vent heat or local processes (e.g. autoclaves) and not designed for a personal work station. Where work involves manual manipulation or release of volatile materials, a chemical fume hood shall be used.


2. Emergency Wash Devices

The Quebec regulation respecting occupational health and safety (section 76) specifies that emergency eye washes and showers be clearly identified and easily accessible, located within the immediate vicinity of exposed workers and supplied with warm water. The standard for design, installation and maintenance of the equipment is the American National Standards Institute Z-358.1, summarized in the table below:

Eye Wash
  • Single-action, stay-open activation
  • 2 spray heads for simultaneous flushing of both eyes
1.5 1pm (.4 gpm) for 15 min. 22.7 1 (6 gal) Lukewarm water
Eye/Face Wash
  • Single-action, stay-open activation
  • 2 spray heads for simultaneous flushing of both eyes
11.41(3 gpm) for 15 min. 11.41(3 gpm) for 15 min. Lukewarm water
Emergency Drench Hose*
  • Single-action, stay-open activation
75.71(20 gpm) for 15 min. 11361 (300 gal) Lukewarm water

Location wise, emergency showers and eye washes are to be positioned within 10 seconds walking distance (approximately 50 feet) of the work stations which require access to emergency wash devices.

Modesty curtains are recommended for emergency showers.

*A drench hose is a supplementary emergency wash device and is not considered a suitable substitute for an emergency eye/face wash or an emergency shower.

3. Laboratory Storage

3.1 Shelving and edge guards

Open laboratory shelves used for storage of chemicals or any other hazardous materials shall be equipped with edge guards having dimensions height. 12.7 mm to 19 mm (½ to ¾ inches)

3.2 Flammable liquid storage

UL/NFPA approved flammable liquid storage cabinets are required for flammable and combustible liquid storage.

3.3 Corrosive liquid storage

Corrosion resistant-storage cabinets are required. Acids and bases should be stored separately.

3.4 Compressed gases

Compressed gas cylinders must be firmly attached to a secure structure by a non-combustible material such as metal chain. Nylon straps will burn in a fire and are thus not recommended.

4. Radiation laboratories

4.1 CNSC Regulatory Document (Design Guide for Basic and Intermediate Level Radioisotope Laboratories)

This Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) guide provides laboratory planning information, with specific features in ventilation, finishing and fixtures, plumbing, storage, security and miscellaneous topics including coat hooks, installation of radiation monitoring devices, desks, study spaces, food and beverage preparation and storage areas kept away from radioisotope laboratories and emergency lighting.

4.2 Radiation laboratory commissioning

The CNSC specifies that all new labs for the use of radioisotopes be approved by the mario.badillo [at] (Radiation Safety Officer), to ensure and confirm their adequacy with respect to radiation safety.

4.3 Radiation laboratory decommissioning

The CNSC also specifies that all laboratories previously used for nuclear substances be decommissioned and signed-off by the mario.badillo [at] (Radiation Safety Officer). This will ensure that the area does not pose a radiation health hazard to current and future occupants.

5. Laboratories handling biological agents

6. Specialized Applications

6.1 Coldrooms

Coldrooms intended for human occupancy must meet standard requirements for fresh air supply rates. See the Quebec regulation respecting occupational health and safety, Schedule 3.

Interior surfaces of coldrooms must be of non-porous material for ease of surface decontamination

6.2 Hazardous waste rooms

Hazardous waste rooms are areas for holding hazardous wastes to be collected by the Hazardous Waste Management office. Requirements for such rooms will vary according to the activities of the area. Thus Hazardous Waste Management office must be consulted on all construction or renovations related to hazardous waste rooms.

7. Signage

All labs must be provided with the following signs:

7.1. Laboratory Information Card – door holder required
7.2. Identifier signs for emergency wash devices
7.3. “flammable liquid” identifiers on all cabinets intended for flammable liquids.
7.4. “acids” identifier on identifiers on all cabinets intended for acids.
7.5. “bases” or “alkalis” identifiers on all cabinets intended for alkaline liquids.
7.6. “oxidizers” identifiers on all cabinets intended for strong oxidizers.


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