SEFA Spells Safe in the Laboratory

Posted by Alison Heller-Ono on November 10, 2021



About SEFA

Up until a few months ago, I had not heard of SEFA. It just wasn’t on my radar. But now it is! As a certified professional ergonomist with a focus on laboratory ergonomics over the last several decades, I’m grateful to become acquainted with this unique association.

Having served on the BIFMA G1-2022 (pending approval) committee, and my love of laboratory science, I was keenly interested in SEFA.

The Scientific Equipment and Furniture Association (SEFA) was organized in 1988 to meet the needs of an important industry of lab designers and manufacturers of laboratory furniture. It is a membership-based association with all members having close ties to laboratory owners, architects, contractors, and others to advance the goal of creating a safe “Laboratory Grade” environment.

SEFA takes a leading role in advancing the cause of good laboratory planning with a strong focus on designing laboratories with safety, productivity, efficiency, and environmental issues at the forefront.

SEFA Sets Standards

SEFA members develop recommended practices in several key areas to ensure a safe lab environment. These committees include the design and development of safety standards for the following:

  • Fume hoods
  • Installations
  • Laboratory Work Surfaces
  • Liquid Chemical Storage
  • Laboratory Casework
  • Laboratory stools and chairs
  • And more.

Annual Meeting:

This past week was the SEFA Annual Conference where all stakeholders meet to discuss the purpose and advance the committee work in progress. I was able to participate in several committee meetings to learn and contribute my unique value proposition on ergonomics in the lab, quality standard development, and work design to improve human performance and well-being.


Lab of the Year

One of the most exciting and interesting aspects of the conference is the selection of the Lab of the Year design award. In recent years, SEFA gathers experts in architecture, lab planners, and designers to select an exceptional lab design that has been realized and achieved.

This year’s award was given to Harvard University Science and Engineering Complex (teaching and research facility) designed by R.M. Noblett of Behnisch Architekten firm. The facility is a 544,000 sq. ft. behemoth and took over 15 years to plan and build. It is an architectural feat with many sustainable features including energy efficiency, water capture, and management, and offers many ergonomic features inherent in the design. But it’s most unique attribute is the exterior covering featuring 14,000 uniquely designed stainless steel panels.

The 2020 SEFA Lab of the Year was the River Campus at the Rockefeller University in New York City on the East River. To say these buildings are a contribution to mankind is an understatement. Designed by Jay Bargmann, from the firm Raphael Vinoly Architects, this building offers exceptionally thoughtful planning and placement to not obstruct views of the river and is built immediately above a major highway around the island.

It is amazing to see the vendor, architect, and lab planning partnership that occurs in creating these architectural feats that may span one or more decades in design. Imagine starting to plan in 2005, and as you develop the plan and build, technology, intelligence, engineering inventions, and pandemics happen along the way that must be integrated into the design. What many people don’t realize is that the lab cabinetry is hand-built to exact specifications.


SEFA for Tomorrow’s Labs

Now that I am acquainted with SEFA, I am excited to contribute in the various committees to assist in developing the Recommended Practices that will serve as invaluable tools in proposal writing, contract negotiations, installation, facility planning, and work procedures, as well as liability and responsibility determinations. My experience as a Certified Professional Ergonomist with a focus on lab ergonomics is a welcome perspective to the association and for that, I am excited and very grateful.

To learn more about SEFA, check out


Lab Safety



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