Unattended Operations-Environmental Health & Safety - Carnegie Mellon University

Monday, October 22, 2012

Unattended Operations

Similar to our concerns about working alone, there is the issue of hazardous operations running unattended, often overnight or through the weekends or holidays.  Should a problem occur the results could be very serious indeed.  For operations running in a fume hood, what happens if the power goes out or a hood malfunctions?  What would be result of a water failure (or tubing break) in a water-cooled condenser?  What if a piece of analytical equipment breaks, jams up or otherwise fails?  I have personally observed the effects of a heated bath breaking and causing a fire which destroyed an entire lab and its contents (including personal items belonging to the lab workers.)

It is critical for lab personnel to evaluate any operation that needs to run unattended.  First of all, question WHY it must run unattended.  Can it be done another way, or in an "attended" location?  Identify what can go wrong.  Establish procedures to mitigate these problems.  Identify methods of warning to others in the building should something go wrong.  Notify EH&S of the location of these processes, so that we can prepare ourselves and the university.

Please contact me at 8-8182 with any questions you may have regarding the safety of an unattended, hazardous operation.

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