Keep Safety in Mind When Using an Autoclave February 27 2014

Autoclaves are widely used in any setting where items are reused between people, like a surgical instrument in a Medical Office.  Though autoclaves are common in Medical and Dental Practices, they are also widely used in Veterinary, Tattoo, Lab and Salon settings.  Cleanliness and sterilization are a necessity in all professions and a well functioning autoclave plays a large part in assuring the risk of cross contamination is not present. 

Since autoclaves are so important and used on a regular basis, it is sometimes easy to forget that they are machines that use high temperature steam and high pressure to kill all the living things inside of them.  Though you should always be sure to follow the safety precautions suggested by the autoclave manufacturer, below is a brief discussion on autoclave safety.  When using an autoclave, one of the biggest safety concerns is the internal temperature. As you probably already know, Units like the Midmark Ritter M9 Autoclave and Midmark Ritter M11 Autoclave operate at temperatures in excess of 100 degrees Celsius. This means all the water inside is boiling, super heated and transferred to steam.  These extremely high temperatures present a high risk for burns.  In order to avoid the pain and recovery of a steam burn, unloading a steam autoclave should be done under the safety precautions:

  • When you slightly open the autoclave door after a run, make sure to use heat resistant gloves and open the door slowly to allow steam to escape before you continue. 
  • Stand behind the autoclave door while opening it, to shield yourself from hot steam or boiling water. 
  • When removing the contents of the autoclave, make sure you are wearing proper safety equipment. You should have at least heat resistant gloves, but it is a good idea to also use a heat resistant apron, rubber sleeves, boots, and face shield. Don’t take risks when dealing with these kinds of temperatures. 
  • Wait over 10 minutes after opening the door before you touch the contents of the autoclave. Wait even longer is the load contains liquids. 
  • Wait over 15 minutes before handling any glassware with gloveless hands and around an hour before handling any containers with liquids inside. 
Following these simple tips can mean the difference between a bad day at the office and a good one.  The above are just a few tips but remember to always follow the autoclave manufacturer’s suggested safety information.