ABC of Safety in the Biological Sciences




Autoclaves are high pressure steam or dry heat devices used for the sterilisation of infected or potentially infected material, or the preparation of sterile solutions or equipment. The use of laboratory autoclaves should be limited to those staff familiar with the procedural manual ­ i.e. only trained staff.

Containment procedures should be used by staff when an autoclave is used for sterilisation of infected material. Staff should wear full protection including a long sleeved laboratory coat or gown, rubber gloves and a face mask as minimum protection against infection.

Always ensure the door is completely closed before commencing the sterilising cycle. All mechanical parts of autoclaves, including gauges, steam lines and drains should be checked regularly by competent maintenance staff and reports of inspections kept. Biological checking of sterilisation effectiveness should be carried out regularly with spore strips or similar. Poorly maintained autoclaves can be lethal.

It must never be presumed that an autoclave has cooled down. Always use a "hot hand" or glove to remove any article from an autoclave. If any burns occur flush with cold water for 10 minutes and obtain medical attention.

Gruendemann and Meeker (1983)
Care of the Patient in Surgery, 7th Edition.
C.V. Mosby Co.



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