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Hazardous equipment is in use within the department and it is important that it is used carefully and in accordance with the manufacturer’s guidelines. Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) should be available and followed; these should also make clear the hazards associated with the equipment and what to do in the event of an emergency. Most communal equipment will have this guidance with the machine, in individual labs it is their responsibility to ensure it is available.

General Electrical Safety Precautions

  • Never touch electrical apparatus with damp hands or when standing on damp surfaces.
  • Use all electrical equipment in accordance with the manufacturers’ instructions and pay attention to warning labels.
  • Never operate electrical equipment in adverse or hazardous environments such as wet, corrosive, or dirty conditions or if the equipment will be exposed to flammable or explosive substances.
  • Do not operate damaged equipment or equipment with worn or damaged power cables or plugs. All electrical faults must be reported immediately to the Safety Officer and any equipment involved taken out of use.
  • All electrical repairs and wiring of plugs must be carried out or checked before use by a competent electrician.
  • Equipment in the cold room must use power sources which incorporate an earth leakage (residual current) circuit breaker.

Make sure you are clear on the safe use of an item of equipment before beginning any work.

The following are examples of commonly used equipment which pose specific risks:


Centrifuges are potentially very dangerous especially when not operated in accordance with the manufacturers' instructions. It is essential to keep the lids of bench top centrifuges closed during operation and to make sure rotors are balanced as described in the manufacturer' instructions. Always wait by a centrifuge until it reaches operating speed. If you don’t know how to use the centrifuge seek help from someone who does.

Rotors: Are kept in the fridge in the room. Please note that the performance and cleaning of the carbon fibre rotors for the high speed centrifuges differs from conventional rotors. Read the notice on the wall by the centrifuges.

Centrifuges rotors are potentially dangerous, always exercise care in their use and particularly ensure that the items you are spinning are properly balanced.

Autoclaves and Pressure Vessels

Autoclaves operate at high pressure and must never be altered in any way. The contents may also be hot when removed. Follow instructions at all times and report defects immediately.


Use of Lasers is governed by the Laser Local Rules.

Under normal working conditions lasers are safe, but they are capable of inflicting serious damage to the eyes if misused. If you have equipment that contains a laser don’t take it apart and never tamper with the beam. You must inform the Laser Safety Officer (Dr John Holdich) when you purchase a device that contains a laser of Class 2 and above.

The University has produced a booklet detailing the Safe Use of Lasers

Confocal Microscopes

Before using a confocal microscope or any other such device with a laser class 2 or above you must have read the Laser Local Rules.

Ultra-violet Light

All wave-lengths of ultra-violet radiation are hazardous to some extent, but the region between 254nm and 300nm, which include the 254nm radiation used for bactericidal purposes, is especially dangerous. Ill-effects are erythema (sunburn), photokeratitis (snow blindness) and UV is carcinogenic and mutagenic. Never expose your eyes or any skin to UV. All sources of UV must be marked with a hazard warning sign. When using a hood or cabinet fitted with both fluorescent and UV light, ensure that the UV is OFF when the fluorescent light is on. There is a University booklet on Use of Ultra-violet Light in Biological Applications.


Don’t place closed containers in a Microwave oven because of the risk of explosion. Always loosen any tops prior to heating. Liquids can reach very high temperatures in a microwave and are susceptible to superheating which can cause them to boil over when disturbed by shaking. Take extreme care when removing bottles of liquid from a microwave. Please ensure that the Department Safety Officer (DSO) knows if you have a microwave oven, so that regular testing can be carried out. Properly designed microwave ovens cannot be turned on with the door open and therefore should be quite safe. If an oven appears damaged report this at once to the DSO. Serious burns can result from exposure to microwave radiation.

Using machinery

Always treat moving machinery with the greatest respect - a moment's carelessness can cause serious injury.

Follow all the safety precautions laid down for the safe operation of the machine.

Never attempt to operate machinery with which you are unfamiliar. Do not use the centrifuges until you have been shown how to do so by a competent person.


Try never to sit at a computer for more than 20 mins a session, even a minute’s break is important. Make sure that you have a set-up that is ergonomically comfortable, move the parts: keyboard, screen, seat etc so that they suit your body size and posture.