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Autoclave Safety Policy

February, 2015

NOTICE: Effective February 1, 2010, all personnel who use a CNSM-owned autoclave must successfully complete a new autoclave training/authorization process and be specifically approved to operate each unit. Persons/labs that do not follow these rules are subject to loss of autoclave access pending completion of an appropriate retraining session. This new policy has been adopted in an effort to reduce operator injuries and the staggering cost of repairs traced to improper use.

Background Information

This new CNSM Safety policy now requires that each operator of a College or Department-owned autoclave be trained, retrained and approved for autoclave use by specifically designated personnel. Presently, Ms. Michelle Giffin x54038, performs the training/authorization function for autoclaves in the MLSC building (download MLSC autoclave training materials). Ms. Diane Graham x54857, is the designated person for such units in the Microbiology building.

This autoclave training consists of the initial training session, documented on a safety training form, kept on file by the trainer. After the training, based on the fourteen points listed below, the trainer will then observe the trainee's performance to confirm that they understand the process. The autoclave trainer/supervisors will then provide routine oversight and spot checks on users and operations to ensure that proper procedures are being followed.

Faculty who own their own autoclave are, in a like fashion, responsible for providing and documenting safe autoclave use for their devices, and monitoring users compliance with those protocols.

Safe Autoclave Use - The Basics

Each autoclave has unique characteristics, even the same model can vary greatly. All generate dangerous pressures and temperatures during normal operation. This training handout will help you know and understand how to properly use each individual autoclave. Autoclave training is based largely upon the information in the manufacturer's owner's manual(s). The location of each manual is part of the training. Contact the designated people listed above and/or check the owners manual if questions arise. If you are not POSITIVE you are loading and operating the unit correctly, STOP and get help from a KNOWLEDGABLE source.

Autoclave maintenance is an important aspect of a properly functioning autoclave. These units are serviced by a qualified contractor. Notify the appropriate autoclave trainer/technician if there are any problems with the unit. Also post an 'Out of Service" note on the unit if you find a problem.

Never autoclave items containing acids, bases, phenol, solvents, flammable materials or radioactive materials. Consult CNSM Safety if in doubt about hazardous materials.

Treating infectious waste (BSL-2 or higher) so that it may be discarded as regular trash is prohibited. All such materials must ultimately be treated and discarded by a licensed biomedical waste contractor. Double red bagged red drums are used to collect such material. Notify CNSM Safety when your drum is getting full. No sharp items go into the drum. Place infectious sharps in a red sharps box. Close the sharps box at the 2/3 full mark and call CNSM Safety for a replacement.

Utilize the following autoclave safety practices for every model autoclave:

  1. Before using the autoclave, check inside the chamber for any items left by the previous user that could pose a hazard (trash, sharp items, etc). Report messes or problems to the designated staff.
  2. Check the control settings to confirm they are correct for your needs. If your training allows you to change settings, do so. Many operators are forbidden to change settings unsupervised.
  3. Sign in on the use-log. Make sure you put your supervisor's name down.
  4. If you are the first user of the day, you must perform a generator flush for those units that have onboard steam supply. Record this as you would a cycle on the log sheet.
  5. Load the autoclave properly as per the manufacturer’s recommendations.
  6. To prevent bottles from shattering during pressurization, the caps of containers with liquids must be loosened before loading. Also when autoclaving liquids, use a tray with a solid bottom and walls to contain the contents and catch spills.
  7. Check plastic materials to ensure they are compatible with the autoclave. Some melt!
  8. Individual glassware pieces should be within a heat resistant plastic tray on a shelf or rack and never placed directly on the autoclave bottom or floor.
  9. Make sure the door of the autoclave is fully closed (latched) and the correct cycle has been selected before starting. Always check settings to confirm correct parameters.
  10. Wear heat-resistant gloves, closed-toe footwear when opening the autoclave door after a cycle. Autoclave gloves are available from CNSM Safety. Use eye protection as appropriate.
  11. Before removing autoclaved items, wait 5 minutes for loads containing only dry glassware, and 10 minutes for autoclaved liquid loads.
  12. For non-liquid loads, let the glassware cool for 15 minutes before touching it with ungloved hands.
  13. For liquid loads, let liquids stand for a full hour before touching with ungloved hands. Be sure others in the area know a heat hazard is present.