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Electrical Laboratory Equipment

The utilization of electrically powered equipment can pose hazards in the laboratory when not used properly. Problems that are encountered when using any lab equipment should be reported to the laboratory supervisor immediately.


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General Electrical Safety

  • The typical laboratory requires a large quantity of electrical power. This increases the likelihood of electrically-related problems and hazards. The following recommendations are basic to a sound electrical safety program in the laboratory.
  • All electrical equipment should be properly grounded.
  • All electrical equipment shall be UL listed and/or FM approved.
  • Sufficient room for work must be present in the area of breaker boxes. All circuit breakers and fuses shall be labeled to indicate whether they are in the “on” or “off” position, and what appliance or room area is served.
  • All electrical equipment shall be routinely checked to ensure it is in good working order.
  • All power cords shall be routinely checked for cuts or fraying before each use.
  • Extension cords shall not be used as a substitute for permanent wiring.
  • Electrical cords shall not be suspended over doors or passageways. Cords should not be routed over metal objects such as emergency showers, overhead pipes or metal racks.  Do not place cords under carpets, rugs or heavy objects. Do not place cords across pathways where they will become worn from repeated abuse.
  • Multi-outlet plugs shall not be used unless they have a built-in circuit breaker. This causes overloading on electrical wiring, which will cause damage and possible over-heating.


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The use of an autoclave is the preferred way to decontaminate infectious waste.  In order to safely operate the autoclave, the following procedures must be utilized:
  • Do not put sharp or pointed contaminated objects into an autoclave bag. Place them in an appropriate rigid sharps container.
  • Never use red biohazard bags to autoclave.
  • Always use caution when handling an infectious waste autoclave bag in case sharp objects were inadvertently placed in the bag. Never lift a bag from the bottom to load it into the chamber, lift from the top of the bag.
  • Use indicator tape with each load to verify it has been autoclaved.
  • Do not mix contaminated and clean items together during the same autoclave cycle.
  • Be sure to wear personal protective equipment, including heat resistant gloves, safety glasses and a lab coat when operating an autoclave. Caution should be used when opening the autoclave door, allowing superheated steam to exit before removing the contents.
  • Always be on the alert when handling pressurized containers as superheated liquids may spurt from closed containers. Never seal a liquid container with a cork or stopper as this could cause an explosion inside the autoclave.
  • Use caution when autoclaving agar or trash with agar as it will become liquefied when autoclaved. Solid autoclave buckets (not baskets) should always be used with agar.

  • If there is a spill inside the autoclave chamber, allow the unit to cool before attempting to clean up the spill.  If glass breaks in the autoclave, use tongs, forceps, or other mechanical means to recover fragments. Do not use bare or gloved hands to pick up broken glassware. Do not attempt to fix or clean the autoclave without help of a PI or Instrument Technician.


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All centrifuge operators shall be instructed on proper operating procedures, which would include balancing loads, selection of proper rotor, head, cups, and tubes, and use of accessory equipment. (Consult the centrifuge operating manual.) Additionally, the following guidelines should be followed when dealing with centrifuges. 

  • Students may not be use a centrifuge until they have been properly trained.  Operating procedures for each centrifuge must be established by the laboratory PI in accordance with the procedural outlines in the operating manual.  Guidelines for centrifugation of infectious agents or chemical hazards must be included in the procedures.
  • The centrifuge operator is responsible for the condition of the machine at the end of each procedure.
  • All centrifuge tubes must be inspected before each use.  Broken, cracked or damaged tubes should be disposed of.
  • Refer to the centrifuge operating manual for selection of appropriate tubes, carrier cups, and rotors.  Capped centrifuges should be used whenever possible. 


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There should not be any potential sources of electrical sparks on the inside of a laboratory refrigerator where chemicals are to be stored.
  • If the unit will be used to store flammable or combustible materials, the refrigerator/freezer should be explosion-resistant and labeled to indicate it is suitable for storing flammable materials.
  • The explosion-proof refrigerator should be used to store flammable or combustible materials in hazardous areas, such as a chemical storage rooms.
  • All refrigerators, regardless of the type, should never be used to store food and must have labels on the door indicating this. 


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Drying Ovens​​

Drying ovens are commonly used to dry laboratory glassware. Since these ovens do not have a provision for preventing the discharge of volatized substances into the air, organic compounds should not be dried in these units. Conventional oven units should not be used to dry any chemical that is moderately volatile and might pose a health hazard of acute or chronic toxicity. Glassware rinsed in organic solvent should not be dried in an oven.


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Last updated 10/20/2020 4:01 AM