Safety Tips for Hot Plates by John LaPerche
|Recent incidents of fire involving laboratory hot plates, some caused by human error and some by equipment malfunction, serve as an important reminder for laboratory personnel to take some simple steps to minimize the potential for similar incidents from occurring.
Before use: Perform hot plate inspections regularly, and pay particular attention to the overall condition of hot plate:
- Is the power cord in good condition?
- Is it kinked or wedged between sharp objects?
- Has it been exposed to any harsh chemicals?
- Has the power cord been burned from being in contact with the hot plate?
- Check the surrounding area to make sure there are no combustible materials in the area or any flammable liquids or gases that may ignite.
Test hot plates periodically to make sure all components and features are properly working. If one function is not working, consider replacing the whole unit; it may be a matter of time before some other part also fails. In fact, consider implementing a policy for your laboratory regarding scheduled equipment replacement of all equipment, as opposed to waiting until equipment breaks or catches fire.
Make sure all knob and switch indicators are properly labeled and in the correct location corresponding with the right setting (i.e., the “off” line on the knob lines up correctly with “off” setting on base). If a label is missing, create a replacement label indicating its function such as “Heat” or “Stir”. All hot plates are different, so be aware that many knobs and functions are different from unit to unit.
When purchasing a hot plate value is not always the best option. Consider safety features such as indicator lights, timer controls, signaling devices and surge protection when making equipment purchase choices. After purchase, always register your hot plate, as well as any other purchased equipment, with the manufacturer. If there is a recall for an equipment defect, you will be notified.
When using your hot plate:
- Make sure the hot plate is operating correctly; if defective, discard to prevent reuse.
- Set the timer. If the unit doesn’t have a timer or you are performing an “unattended” operation, consider using the timer function on your cell phone as an alarm.
- Remember to check your hot plate operation periodically to ensure it is running safely and there is enough liquid solution to avoid a “boil down”.
Always observe the Policy for Unattended Operation of Laboratory Equipment @ http://www.ehs.columbia.edu/LabUnattendedLabWork.html, including:
- Pull the plug if the hot plate overheats or cannot be shut off. If a “boil over” has occurred, make sure to clean the hot plate after the unit has cooled.
- Know the location of circuit breakers that control the hot plate and other equipment in your laboratory.
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