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Hazard Alerts

Laboratory Electrical Safety

Every laboratory on UNC's campus has electrically powered equipment that is used routinely in day-to-day operations. Examples include: vacuum pumps, electrophoresis devices, stir plates, hot plates, heating mantles, centrifuges, UV lamps, refrigerators and freezers. This equipment can pose a serious hazard if not properly maintained or improperly used. In addition, an electrical hazard could damage expensive equipment or wipe out years of research.

The major hazards associated with electricity in the laboratory environment are electrical shock or electrical fire. Recently, a laboratory employee sustained an electrical shock injury from a hand-held UV lamp whose wire had frayed. In addition, during a recent inspection a laboratory refrigerator was found with an electrical cord that was frayed in several places and also plugged into an extension cord which is a potential fire hazard.

Please take a look at electrical equipment in your laboratory and remind workers of the risks associated with electrically energized equipment. At your next lab safety meeting - train workers to:

  • Inspect wiring of equipment before each use.
  • Replace all frayed or damaged electrical cords immediately.
  • Only equipment with three prongs (ground) should be used in the laboratory.
  • Limit the use of extension cords. Use only for temporary operations. In all other cases, request installation of a new electrical outlet.
  • Minimize the potential for water or chemical spills on or near electrical equipment.
  • Ensure that GFCI outlets are installed and used when water is present within 6 feet.
  • Know the location and how to operate shut-off switches and/or circuit breaker panels. Use these devices to shut off equipment in the event of a fire or electrocution.
If you have further questions about electrical hazards or suspect a potential hazard in your laboratory please contact Environment, Health and Safety (962-5507).

Electrical hazards

Safety Culture

Read the American Chemical Society's Creating Safety Cultures in Academic Institutions report which offers guidance, suggestions and recommendations to help strengthen safety cultures in academic laboratories.

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