5 Commonly Overlooked Cleanroom Dangers

It seems like in a cleanroom, it’s almost impossible to overthink every move and decision you make. Sometimes people make mistakes they couldn’t have anticipated until they happen. Here are 5 common dangers that not everyone is cognizant of when working in a cleanroom.

Poking holes in the HEPA filter

Take a look at your HEPA filter. Are there any round holes in there? It is not uncommon for someone to get a little too aggressive when pulling the mop out of the bucket, sending the handle straight into the HEPA filter.

Improper gowning and face mask use

Without proper training and awareness, it’s really easy to, for example, let parts of the gown hit the floor when putting it on. It is also possible to wear your facemask inside out. Make sure everyone knows how to properly dress and undress in and out of cleanroom attire.

Touching furniture

If you’re wearing a sterile glove and adjust the height on your chair, you can pick up contaminates from the movement of the adjusting cylinder. Remember that any time you’re dealing with moving pieces, that movement can create electrostatic discharge or release particles.

Outlets

If outlets are not sealed properly, they can become a portal for bugs. Enough said.

Tacky mats

These are great for capturing contaminates off the bottoms of your feet. However, if the mat is too sticky, it can be a tripping hazard. Additionally, if your sticky mat is too small, it’s easy to only hit one foot on the mat when walking across it.

As you can see, the little things can lead to big problems when you’re working in a controlled environment. It’s the things that are easily overlooked that can make compliance very frustrating. Hidden problems are very difficult to fix. If you need cleanroom validation or certification, contact Gerbig Engineering Company. Not only do we perform these services, but also we have been in this business for thirty years and can help you identify potential problems. 888-628-0056; info@gerbig.com.

Considerations for ESD in Cleanroom Packaging

Static control in packaging has been around for centuries. In its earliest years, it was used to prevent the electrostatic discharge (ESD) ignition of gunpowder stores. Today, there are many kinds of devices, parts, and pieces manufactured in cleanrooms that are vulnerable to ESD. Since basic motion and activity can create a static charge, it’s important that these items are packaged in ESD protective materials. Here are a few options.

Conductive Totes

Conductive plastic is achieved through the compounding of carbon particle material into plastic resin. This permanently changes the surface resistivity, transforming it from an electrical insulator to an electrical conductor.

A conductive tote prevents ESD because when grounded, it bleeds the charge off to the surface it’s in contact with. When enclosed with a cover, it becomes a Faraday cage, providing an electrically continuous conductive enclosure.

Static dissipative

This kind of resistivity can also be accomplished by compounding carbon particles into plastic resin. The rate of discharge is slower with this material, and it needs to make direct contact with the ESD-sensitive components.

Antistatic

This material prevents triboelectric charging when two dissimilar components are separated because it resists high amounts of charge accumulation. These don’t need to be grounded, but the antistatic property may not be permanent. It can depend on the relative humidity to attract moisture because an antistatic additive can evaporate.

Corrugated paper/cardboard

This is the lowest cost option. The paper or cardboard is coated with carbon black and sometimes laminated with foils or other materials to become ESD protective. The down side is that paper emits dust, fibers, and corrosive sulfur contaminates that can destroy electric components.

When you’re deciding what kind of packaging material is best for you, consider the overall time and cost of the project, whether you prefer reusable or recyclable materials, and what will best protect your components from other damage.

For cleanroom certification or validation, contact Gerbig Engineering Company. We have thirty years of experience in cleanrooms. We also manufacture AireCell cleanrooms. Contact us at 888-628-0056 or info@gerbig.com.

Effective Cleaning to Remove Dense Dust from Cleanrooms

While the advanced air filtration systems in modern cleanroom HVACs trap most dust particles, cross contamination from dust is still a concern. Dense dust, which has a high water content, and metal-containing dust can easily find its way into cleanrooms via things like the corrosion of faucets and plumbing or technician clothing. A careful protocol is necessary to remove these dust particles and avoid spreading contaminates during cleaning.

Floors

Do not sweep or mop cleanroom or lab floors. Sweeping loosens dust particles and circulates them through the air. They then settle back onto other surfaces. Traditional mopping will simply spread contaminates from one place to another.

Instead, replace brooms with high-filtration vacuum cleaners. These are available as both canisters and backpacks, provide high and low vacuuming, and they offer the flexibility to access hard-to-reach areas. Mops should be replaced with auto vacs. With these machines, you apply cleaning solution directly to the floor and the vac provides agitation to help loosen contaminates and vacuums them up.

Other surfaces (desks and counters)

Traditional cleaning for these surfaces includes sprayers and cleaning cloths. With dust, it is important to follow a few special rules to avoid spreading particles around. Always use a microfiber cleaning cloth. Additionally, only use cloths and pats of cloths that are clean. Smart towels can be folded into quadrants to provide more fresh cloth surfaces.

With dust, it’s also important to spray solution on the cloth rather than the surface to avoid sending particles airborne. Once you’ve removed the dust, you will clean the surface again by applying the solution to the surface and wiping with a clean, dry microfiber.

Flat-surface cleaning systems are also available as an alternative to sprays and cloths. These systems have a chemical injection system that delivers a cleaning solution to a microfiber wipe and then a squeegee removes excess liquid from the surface.

The biggest difference in cleaning dust versus other cleaning is that you have to avoid sending the dust airborne. With a few adjustments to your regular cleaning routine, you can effectively capture the dust first. When there is no dust present, applying a cleaning solution to the surface before wiping is still recommended.

If you have questions about cleanroom cleaning, contact Gerbig Engineering Company. We provide cleanroom certification and validation as well as construction. Our thirty years of experience will ensure that you have what you need to remain compliant. Contact us at 888-628-0056 or info@gerbig.com.

The 5 Time and Money Saving Qualities of a Cleanroom

Cleanrooms are incredibly complex. Without the right amount of planning when building one, you can encounter one time and money-sucking challenge after another. You can’t just think about your needs now, but also in the future. Situations like expansion, repairs, and upgrades can be an enormous headache if you’re not set up for it when the time comes for change. When you’re building a cleanroom, here are 5 characteristics you want to ensure it has to avoid costly, time-consuming obstacles.

  1. Located on the first floor. Everything you want to build, install, or renovate requires access to the room, and the easier you make that, the faster it will get done. Additionally, the first floor is ideal when you look at all the HVAC and other necessary equipment – you need room for everything, and you need space in the correct location within the room.

 

  1. Your clear height should be at least 10 feet. Another reason for a first-floor location, you need to ensure that you have enough space in the room for all the equipment. In some cases, those are large units needed for manufacturing, and in others, proper air and temperature control systems.

 

  1. Provide enough HVAC capacity to accommodate necessary airflow. This is not a measure you want to have to compensate for later when you find out your system is not sufficient for your compliance. Pay close attention to what you need and might need so that you are set up for a smooth operation.

 

  1. Ensure there is sufficient electrical amperage to operate the air handlers. If your electrical system is compromised, so is your entire operation. Check what you have and what you need before committing to a location.

 

  1. Check that the building’s roof can handle any existing and new HVAC handlers. As you can imagine, you never want to find out that your roof can’t support your critical equipment. Choosing the right location is a total evaluation from top to bottom.

 

Throughout your process of building and running your cleanroom, you will need certification and validation. These services are paramount to your success. To ensure that you continue to thrive, contact Gerbig Engineering Company. We provide expert cleanroom services, including validation, certification, and construction. Connect with us at 888-628-0056 or info@gerbig.com.

Can you Save Money and Energy Reducing HVAC in Cleanrooms?

One of the greatest expenses and energy drains in a cleanroom is the HVAC system. Air change rates, pressurization, temperature, and humidity are all monitored to maintain compliance for cleanroom classification. This accounts for about 80% of the energy used, and about 50% of that comes from that fans alone.

With strict guidelines on air quality and regulation, the HVAC systems are typically left to run at full power all the time. If you can reduce the amount of energy used by the HVAC or even shut the system down while the room is not in use (e.g. evenings and weekends), it would result in a significant cost and energy savings. The question is: is it possible to reduce the air change rates without compromising the microbial growth in a sterile environment?

According to research, yes, it might be possible to cut HVAC usage during periods of inactivity without compromising classification of the room.

Several experiments have been conducted to test this, yielding similar results. However, it is important to note that for your specific cleanroom, you should take this as part of your overall data collection to determine whether your own cleanroom qualifies for turndown or shutoff.

Pharmout.net published some interesting findings in the article “What’s your cleanroom costing you?” by Megan Rutherford. You can read the full details here. To summarize, the experiment took place in an empty Grade C cleanroom that was serviced by an airlock, both with terminal HEPA filtration.

As stated in the article, “A single air handling unit supplied the cleanroom and airlock, providing the cleanroom with up to 45 air changes per hour (AC/H). The system was balanced to provide 15 Pascals positive pressure to the airlock and 30 Pascals positive pressure to the cleanroom, relative to atmospheric pressure.”

What the study concluded was that while there was an increase in non-viable particles during low air change rates, the increase was not significant enough to change classification.

When the air change rate was stopped completely, this experiment found that classification was lost in about twenty minutes. However, depending on the cleanroom, you may be able to shut your system down completely on the weekends according to this major study.

The potential to cut energy usage and accompanying costs by limiting your HVAC system is a game-changer for a lot of companies. The end result is definitely worth your time and resources to find out if this is a possibility for your facility.

For questions or services regarding cleanroom certification or validation, contact Gerbig Engineering Company. We’ve been in this industry for thirty years. 888-628-0056; info@gerbig.com.

5 Things You Never Want to See Inside your Cleanroom

The internal skin of your cleanroom is just as much a barrier from contaminants as are gloves and gowns. Like any barrier, the six sides of your cleanroom are less effective under certain circumstances. Anything that disrupts the smoothness of the surface is a potential contamination hazard. Here are 5 common mistakes people allow inside their cleanrooms.

 

  1. Compromised surface quality. Any bumps, cracks, scratches, holes, sharp corners, or raised surfaces can be a nightmare to clean. This is not only true of the enclosing structure, but also of countertops and other surfaces found within the room. Keep a close eye on the integrity of flat surfaces, and avoid any work that requires drilling or adding dimensions to the walls or ceiling.

 

  1. Rivets. These are used to join panels or keep coving or window frames in place. Rivets are very useful in some circumstances, but they are not always necessary. If they are behind flashing or coving, that is OK so long as they aren’t seen on the internal surface of the cleanroom. You can’t have someone drill a hole into an uncontrolled part of your facility or slop a silicone lump onto your wall that can never be fully cleaned.

 

  1. Mushroom bolts. These hold up a sandwich panel ceiling, and if you already have them in your facility, do not remove them. It isn’t feasible to retrofit a concealed ceiling hanger. However, if you’re starting from scratch, make sure that your contractor is using concealed fixings that don’t break the cleanroom barrier.

 

  1. Electrical conduit long the interior. If you build your cleanroom and have a separate contract for security, for example, you can’t let security start screwing into your walls to run grey electrical conduit. Be sure to specify this before hiring anyone who might be in a position to do so.

 

  1. Pass thru boxes on the wrong side. If you use a pass thru box, one wall will have to have it protruding out. If you pass material from a Grade C room into a Grade B room, the Grade C space should be the one with the protrusion. The Grade B space should be kept as smooth as possible – the two rooms should not each have a partial protrusion.

 

Your critical spaces need to be as close to a smooth six-sided box as you can get. This ensures that you’re reducing dead zones, enhancing airflow, and minimizing the small spaces where dust, dirt, and other contaminates can hide. Smooth surfaces are much quicker and easier to clean.

When it’s time for your cleanroom certification or validation, contact Gerbig Engineering Company. Our experts will handle these entire processes with care and precision. We also build cleanrooms and will ensure that your interior is optimal for long-term compliance. Contact us at 888-628-0056 or email info@gerbig.com.

A Commonly and Dangerously Ignored Cleanroom Rule

If you work in a cleanroom, you know it is imperative to follow protocol. To keep contaminates out and protect yourself from toxic substances, you likely use a variety of protective wear like gowns and gloves when you work. Even though gloves provide an excellent barrier between you and what you touch, it is important to take an extra step in safety. Are you washing your hands before and after wearing gloves?

If you’re not, you need to start immediately, and here is why.

Latex gloves are not 100% impenetrable. There is a chance that contaminates from your hands can break the glove barrier. You need clean hands before you even put the gloves on to protect the controlled environment.

Glove residue can break down your tolerance to irritants. Gloves often contain materials that can cause allergies. The allergens rub off on your skin, and if left there, they will gradually increase your sensitivity to them. As a result, you could develop an allergy to the gloves. Hand sanitizer does not remove the substance – you need to use water and soap to remove it completely.

Gloved hands are perfect conditions for bacterial growth. This is a no-brainer; hands inside of gloves are warm and moist. You absolutely need to clean your hands after bacteria have had some time to breed there.

Removing gloves can have a “back spray” effect. When you take your gloves off, it is possible for fluids and/or germs to be snapped back onto your hands, carried with you everywhere until you wash or sanitize them.

For the safety of yourself, your materials, and your colleagues, it is critical that you wash your hands both before and after wearing gloves. If you have any questions about validation or certification of your cleanroom, contact Gerbig Engineering Company. We offer these services along with cleanroom construction. Call us at 888-628-0056 or email info@gerbig.com.

Sustainable Cleanroom Practices: Retrofitting Old Equipment

With the massive amount of energy it takes to power and run a controlled environment, facility managers are scrambling to find ways to make environmentally-friendly choices. We’ve looked at some of the viable options that can make an impact, like recycling, modular cleanrooms, and reusable supplies like sticky mats. When you’re trying to be more green, one of the most obvious places to look is your equipment.

Newer equipment operates more energy-efficiently, but it is also a huge investment. Many facilities simply can’t afford to replace all the old equipment they have. For the equipment that is still fully functional, you may not have to. In many cases, you can retrofit or renovate your equipment to achieve the efficiency of brand new units.

The benefits of upgrading existing equipment are numerous and span far beyond environmental concerns, especially when compared to buying new. Here are a few of the biggest reasons to retrofit:

  • Equipment doesn’t need to be validated. Existing equipment likely won’t need to be revalidated, so you save time and piece of mind over buying new.
  • You won’t be reducing production like you would for new installations. Not only do you avoid slowing production when you retrofit, but also the equipment turnaround times will be faster after the change. Your production will actually increase, giving you a faster ROI.
  • No new training. Your staff already knows how to use the existing equipment and won’t need to take time out to train on a new unit or system.
  • Costs about 90% less than a new system. For example, a new contained tablet press cost over $1.5 million. Retrofitting that same equipment will be about $100,000 to $200,000.

 

Overall, if you want to improve your production and run equipment that is more energy efficient, you don’t have to buy new. There are many advantages to retrofitting, and at such a reduced cost, you can afford to upgrade more equipment.

If you’re considering a modular cleanroom, or if you need cleanroom certification or validation, talk to Gerbig Engineering Company. We have the experience to provide everything you need and answer any questions you have. Contact us at 888-628-0056 or info@gerbig.com.

4 Guidelines to Proper Use of a Face Mask in a Cleanroom

The purpose of wearing a face mask in a controlled environment is to prevent contaminants from entering the space through a personnel’s nose or mouth. However, incorrectly using a mask can increase the risk of transmission rather than minimize it.

It is therefore paramount that you understand how to correctly use and breathe in a face mask. Here are 4 important guidelines to follow:

  1. Begin and end with proper hygiene. To avoid the risk of contamination, always thoroughly wash your hands with antibacterial soap before you put your mask on. If soap is unavailable, use an alcohol disinfectant. If you feel that the mask has become contaminated at any point during its use, leave the room and take it off. Be sure to completely wash your hands again after touching it, before putting on a new one.
  1. Cover both your mouth and nose. A properly-fit mask will cover both your nose and your mouth, not just your mouth.
  1. Check for leakages. Once the mask is affixed over both your mouth and nose, check the sides to ensure that no air is escaping. In some cases, you can conform the mask to fit around your face.
  1. Breathe the right way. The correct way to breathe in a face mask is in through your nose and out through your mouth. The hair inside your nose catch particles as you breathe in, protecting you from risking the particles going into your lungs as they would with mouth inhalation. Exhaling through your mouth allows you to release your air quickly and comfortably.

All rules and protocols for working in a cleanroom are deliberate and necessary. It’s why cleanroom validation and certification are essential. If you need these services, Gerbig Cleanrooms is a long-standing team of experts who will deliver all the appropriate tests, plans, reports, and tools to complete your project. We also manufacture AireCell cleanrooms in hardwall and softwall styles. Contact us to help you maintain compliance: 888-628-0056; info@gerbig.com.

Sustainable Cleanroom Practices: Washable Sticky Mats

Efforts to go green in a controlled environment range from large to small. Something as simple as using a washable sticky mat can have a huge effect.

Cleanrooms require a large amount of energy and resources to function properly, which can make it difficult for environmentally-conscientious managers to make their facilities more eco-friendly. We’ve discussed some ideas about recycling and modular cleanrooms as they relate to going green, but there are certainly smaller-scale steps you can take, too. One example is considering washable sticky mats.

Sticky mats remove particulate matter form casters, wheel carts, and shoes before they enter a controlled environment. The mats come in various sizes and styles. Peel up sticky mats are sometimes changed as often as every couple of hours. The amount of polyethylene one facility is putting into a landfill adds up quickly with pull up mats. Washable mats, however, are easy to care for, very effective, and last years.

Washable sticky mats are changed as often as needed depending on the number of people who walk over it and the overall cleanliness of the area. You don’t need a frame for a sticky mat, but it does make it easier to remove the mat without leaving adhesive residue on the cleanroom floor. Frames can simply be laid on the floor, held in place with double-sided tape, or even permanently affixed to the floor.

Cleaning this kind of mat is simple. You mop the top of the mat using a high-quality detergent, squeegee the excess water off, and then when the mat has finished drying, it will be rejuvenated. The mats are resistant to most chemicals, unaffected by gamma or x-rays, and with proper maintenance, will regenerate 100% for 2-4 years.

In addition to the eco-friendly benefits, you save money reusing these mats. Every step you take towards a green cleanroom, no matter how small, has a significant impact on your footprint.

When it’s time for cleanroom validation or certification, Gerbig provides all the services and expertise you need. We’ve been working with cleanrooms for thirty years, and we know what you need to be compliant. Gerbig also manufactures softwall and hardwall cleanrooms. Let us know how we can help you succeed: 888-628-0056; info@gerbig.com

The health and safety of our employees, customers and communities is our top priority.Read about our response to COVID-19.