Operations That Are Unattended-Environmental Health & Safety - Carnegie Mellon University

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Operations That Are Unattended

The University had a potentially serious problem during a recent power outage.  A fume hood, where an experiment was running unattended (in the middle of the night) and discharging a very hazardous gas, lost its power.  This might have resulted in a lab filled with the gas and serious problems for someone entering the lab in the morning.  Fortunately this did not occur, but it called us to examine again the practice of leaving hazardous processes in our labs unattended. 

We understand that it is necessary at times to leave experiments running unattended.  Prudent safety practice requires that these situations be examined to include procedures to minimize or even eliminate the risks involved should something go wrong (a power outage, loss of water, failure of the fume hood, broken glassware or failed tubing for example.)  ALL unattended operations MUST be examined to identify safety risks.

Here are the steps to take in your process evaluation:

1.    Notify EH&S of the presence of any unattended operation: by email to markb2@andrew.cmu.edu.  We will work with you on this process evaluation.
2.    Determine the hazards of the process:  (Chemicals, emissions, gases?)
3.    Identify what could go wrong:  (Power or utility failure, hood failure, glassware or other equipment damage or failure)
4.    Identify your protective/preventive measures:  (Hood on back-up power, poison gas shut off, regular inspection of glassware, tubing, set-up, ensuring equipment is properly maintained, hazardous materials or condition alarms)
5.    Ensure that the people listed on your emergency door sign understand the nature of the hazard(s) in the room:  (In the event of an emergency, these contacts will need to inform responders of the hazards in the laboratory.)

By: Mark Banister, markb2@andrew.cmu.edu, 412-268-1493