Laboratory Norms and Standards: Normalization is a must?

Article by Gilbert van Berkel - translated from his original Dutch NEN article "Alles naar de knoppen zonder normalisatie?" 

Laboratory Norms and Standards

The world would look very strange without norms and standards. In fact, the world would be more dangerous without norms and standards by connecting devices that don't meet standards. Within labs, this would be all the more dangerous; for example, misinterpreting randomly used (colour) coding could even lead to a fatal accident. This is just the tip of the iceberg as to why standardization is critical. Just imagine what the world would look like! I have gained both theoretical and hands-on knowledge from labs by going a long way. After graduating from Leiden University, I started working at an engineering firm. From that moment on I have been involved in designing, supplying and installing complete laboratories - worldwide. The last step is to train the lab technicians. Many projects now and years later I am co-founder of Labs31. Labs31's mission is to help customers create a new lab or improve the existing lab. To avoid many misunderstandings (and therefore delays and costs), things are visualized in 3D at an early stage.

norm gilbert van berkel

Speaking the same language

Working with established standards and norms is therefore one of the motivations for actively participating with NEN. By ensuring that everyone speaks the same 'language', a 'Babylonian confusion of tongues' is prevented. Becoming a member of the standards committee was therefore a matter of course. By ensuring that the input of specialists is translated into clear standards, the safety of products is raised to a higher level. NEN Standards Committee 'Fume cupboards and other laboratory equipment' Within this standards committee we focus on fume hoods, microbiological safety workbenches and other laboratory-related matters. This is done in a team, with a focus on knowledge exchange. Together we determine for which subjects we want to develop standards. In addition to communicating via email and telephone, we have opted for a face-to-face meeting twice a year. This is good for substantive discussions, which lifts the working group to a higher level. Every now and then proposals come along (draft adjustments to European methods) that ask for our input. This consists of three options: for, against or abstain. Of course, it is possible to make comments, additions or adjustments to the concept.


The standards committee currently includes advisors and producers; ideally, users should also be added. We are involved as an advisor ourselves, where we try to think as much as possible from the user's point of view; however, it would be good if users would join this committee who would share their experiences from practice. Users are the ones who often spend many years working with the laboratory equipment on a daily basis and for many hours. Their experiences are very valuable. By actively participating in this committee, we jointly ensure that we are and remain informed of the latest developments within this sector. Since we communicate with both the users and the producers in our daily lives, this is of crucial importance. You can't advise if you don't know what it is, can you?

Gilbert van Berkel is on behalf of Labs31, member of the Dutch NEN norm committee 39002012 "Laboratory installations, equipment and ventilation" 

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