16.8 Autoclaves16.8 Autoclaves
Autoclaves have the following potential hazards:
- Heat, steam, and pressure.
- Thermal burns from steam and hot liquids.
- Cuts from exploding glass.
Some general safety guidelines to follow when using autoclaves:
- All users should be given training in proper operating procedures for using the autoclave.
- Read the owner’s manual before using the autoclave for the first time.
- Operating instructions should be posted near the autoclave.
- Follow the manufacturer’s directions for loading the autoclave.
- Be sure to close and latch the autoclave door.
- Some kinds of bottles containing liquids can crack in the autoclave, or when they are removed from the autoclave. Use a tray to provide secondary containment in case of a spill, and add a little water to the tray to ensure even heating.
- Only fill bottles half way to allow for liquid expansion and loosen screw caps on bottles and tubes of liquid before autoclaving, to prevent them from shattering.
- Do not overload the autoclave compartment and allow for enough space between items for the steam to circulate.
- Be aware that liquids, especially in large quantities, can be superheated when the autoclave is opened. Jarring them may cause sudden boiling, and result in burns.
- At the end of the run, open the autoclave slowly: first open the door only a crack to let any steam escape slowly for several minutes, and then open all the way. Opening the door suddenly can scald a bare hand, arm, or face.
- Wait at least five minutes after opening the door before removing items.
- Large flasks or bottles of liquid removed immediately from the autoclave can cause serious burns by scalding if they break in your hands. Immediately transfer hot items with liquid to a cart; never carry in your hands.
- Wear appropriate PPE, including eye protection and insulating heat-resistant gloves.