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4.9 Unattended Operations

Whenever it is necessary to have unattended operations occurring in a lab, it is important to ensure safeguards are put into place in the event of an emergency. Laboratory personnel are strongly encouraged to adhere to the following guidelines when it is necessary to carry out unattended operations.

For unattended operations involving highly hazardous materials, a light should be left on and an appropriate warning/explanation sign should be placed on the laboratory door, or in a conspicuous place that could be easily seen without putting someone else in danger in the event of an emergency.

The warning sign should list the following information:

  • The nature of the experiment in progress.
  • The chemicals in use.
  • Hazards present (electrical, heat, etc.)
  • The name of the person conducting the experiment and a contact number. A secondary name and contact number is also recommended.

When setting up an experiment that will be left unattended, try to take into account potential incidents that could occur if something went wrong. For example:

  • Use secondary containment such as trays to contain any spills that may occur.
  • Use safety shields and keep the chemical hood sash down low to contain chemicals and glass in case an explosion occurs.
  • Remove any chemicals or equipment that are not necessary for the experiment or items that could potentially react with the chemicals or other materials being used in the experiment.
  • Whenever possible, use automatic shutoff devices to prevent accidents such as loss of cooling water shutoff, over-temperature shut off, etc.
  • Use emergency power outlets for those pieces of equipment that could be negatively affected in the event electric service or other city utilities are interrupted.
It is the responsibility of Principal Investigators and laboratory supervisors to ensure procedures for unattended operations are developed and followed by personnel working in laboratories under their supervision.