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16.14.4 Assembling Apparatus

Following these recommendations will help make apparatus assembly easier and equipment safer:

  • Keep your work space free of clutter. 
  • Set up clean, dry apparatus, firmly clamped and well back from the edge of the lab bench making adequate space between your apparatus and others work. Choose sizes that can properly accommodate the operation to be performed. As a rule, leave about 20% free space around your work.
  • Use only equipment that is free from flaws such as cracks, chips, frayed wire, and obvious defects. Glassware can be examined in polarized light for strains. Even the smallest crack or chip can render glassware unusable. Cracked or chipped glassware should be repaired or discarded. 
  • A properly placed pan under a reaction vessel or container will act as secondary containment to confine spilled liquids in the event of glass breakage. 
  • When working with flammable gases or liquids, do not allow burners or other ignition sources in the vicinity. Use appropriate traps, condensers, or scrubbers to minimize release of material to the environment. If a hot plate is used, ensure the temperatures of all exposed surfaces are less than the autoignition temperature of the chemicals likely to be released and that the temperature control device and the stirring / ventilation motor (if present) do not spark. 
  • Whenever possible, use controlled electrical heaters or steam in place of gas burners. 
  • Addition and separatory funnels should be properly supported and oriented so that the stopcock will not be loosened by gravity. A retainer ring should be used on the stopcock plug. Glass stopcocks should be freshly lubricated. Teflon stopcocks should not be lubricated. 
  • Condensers should be properly supported with securely positioned clamps and the attached water hoses secured with wire or clamps. 
  • Stirrer motors and vessels should be secured to maintain proper alignment. Magnetic stirring is preferable. Only non-sparking motors should be used in chemical laboratories. Air motors may be an option. 
  • Apparatus attached to a ring stand should be positioned so that the center of gravity of the system is over the base and not to one side. There should be adequate provision for removing burners or baths quickly. Standards bearing heavy loads should be firmly attached to the bench top. Equipment racks should be securely anchored at the top and bottom. 
  • Apparatus, equipment, or chemical bottles should not be placed on the floor. If necessary, keep these items under tables and out of aisleways to prevent creating a tripping hazard. 
  • Never heat a closed container. Provide a vent as part of the apparatus for chemicals that are to be heated. Prior to heating a liquid, place boiling stones in unstirred vessels (except test tubes). If a burner is used, distribute the heat with a ceramic-centered wire gauze. Use the thermometer with its bulb in the boiling liquid if there is the possibility of a dangerous exothermic decomposition as in some distillations. This will provide a warning and may allow time to remove the heat and apply external cooling. The setup should allow for fast removal of heat. 
  • Whenever hazardous gases or fumes are likely to be evolved, an appropriate gas trap should be used and the operation confined to a fume hood. 
  • Fume hoods are recommended for all operations in which toxic or flammable vapors are evolved as is the case with many distillations. Most vapors have a density greater than air and will settle on a bench top or floor where they may diffuse to a distant burner or ignition source. These vapors will roll out over astonishingly long distances and, if flammable, an ignition can cause a flash back to the source of vapors. Once diluted with significant amounts of air, vapors move in air essentially as air itself. 
  • Use a hood when working with a system under reduced pressure (which may implode). Close the sash to provide a shield. If a hood is not available, use a standing shield. Shields that can be knocked over must be stabilized with weights or fasteners. Standing shields are preferably secured near the top. Proper eye and face protection must be worn even when using safety shields or fume hoods.