Pressure and Vacuum Devices

Pressurized and vacuum operations should never be carried out in, nor heat applied to, an apparatus that is a closed system unless it is designed to withstand the pressure that may be created. Pressurized apparatus shall have an appropriate pressure relief device. When using pressure devices such as autoclaves, some general safety guidelines to follow:

  • Any individual that operates the autoclaves must successfully complete a lab-specific or RMS given training on safe operating procedures for autoclaves. 
  • Do NOT autoclave any chemicals.
  • 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.
  • Do not overload the autoclave compartment and allow for enough space between items for the steam to circulate.
  • Be sure to close and latch the autoclave door.
  • 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.
  • 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.

When using glass under vacuum, some general guidelines to follow:

  • Inspect glassware that will be used for reduced pressure to make sure there are no defects such as chips or cracks that may compromise its integrity.
  • Only glassware that is approved for low pressure should be used. Never use a flat bottom flask (unless it is a heavy walled filter flask) or other thin-walled flask that are not appropriate to handle low pressure.
  • Use a shield between the user and any glass under vacuum or wrap the glass with tape to contain any glass in the event of an implosion.
Chemical Hygene Plan - Table of Contents