How to Use a Centrifuge Safely
June 11, 2013 3:14:12 PM PDT
Follow these guidelines to use a centrifuge safely and keep it in good repair.
- Consult safety resources:
- Review the owner's manual before using a centrifuge. Obtain a copy of the operating manual from the manufacturer if it's not available in the lab.
- Read Working With Laboratory Equipment, 6.C.6.2 Centrifuges, "Prudent Practices in the Laboratory: Handling and Disposal of Chemicals" (1995), The National Academies Press.
- Check the centrifuge for possible existing damage or poor maintenance.
- Know the contact information for your vendor in case of centrifuge problems.
The principal investigator (PI) or a knowledgeable designee must provide appropriate safety training.
- Inform employees about the safe use of centrifuges, their specific hazards, and possible health effects.
- Explain possible routes of exposure of material used in centrifuges, as appropriate:
- Skin contact
- Eye exposure
- Provide personal protective equipment (PPE) and engineering controls, and train employees in their proper use.
- Keep training records on file, including:
- Information covered
- Employee signatures
- Keep a chemical spill kit easily accessible.
- Read How to Handle Chemical Spills in Laboratories.
- Print and keep the Material Safety Data Sheet for any hazardous materials routinely used in the centrifuge with your emergency supplies.
- Know the location of safety equipment, including eyewash, shower station, first aid kit, and Emergency Guide.
- Clean up small-scale spills only if you have been properly trained.
- Restrict access to the spill.
- Wearing proper PPE, clean and disinfect the centrifuge interior and head (or cups) according to manufacturer instructions.
- Dispose of all spill containment material as hazardous waste. Consult Hazardous Waste for chemical, biological, and radioactive waste disposal procedures.
- Follow manufacturer instructions for maintenance and cleaning. Moisture, chemicals, strong cleaning agents, and other substances can promote corrosion of centrifuge parts. General cleaning recommendations follow:
- Keep the centrifuge clean and dry.
- Use distilled water and mild detergent for cleaning, then dry the surface thoroughly.
- Do not use strong alkaline or acid cleaners that could damage the finish and corrode the metal shell.
- Follow these storage guidelines:
- Store and use centrifuges only in well-ventilated locations.
- Never locate centrifuges in corridors or administrative spaces.
- Store all fixed-angle vertical tube and near-vertical tube rotors upside down, with the lids or plugs removed.
- Store swinging bucket rotors with the bucket caps removed.
- Store all rotors in a dry environment, not in the centrifuge.
- Do not use a rotor after the expiration date permanently marked (on some models) on the rotor or rotor accessories. Expired components must be taken out of service.
Centrifuge rotor and tubes
Maintain and operate centrifuges in a safe and responsible manner. Serious damage from a centrifuge accident can include damaged equipment, laboratory space, and worker injury.
- General operating precautions:
- Operate centrifuges in designated research space only to ensure adequate ventilation.
- Check tubes for cracks before each use. Inspect the inside of the cups for rough walls caused by erosion. Remove any adhered matter.
- Use metal or plastic tubes (other than nitrocellulose) whenever possible.
- Do not scratch or otherwise damage the aluminum oxide layer that protects the machine's underlying metal.
- Observe speed reductions specified in the manual for running high-density solutions, plastic adapters, or stainless steel tubes.
- Set and confirm the proper run speed each time to prevent over-speeding.
- Make sure the rotor, tubes, and spindle are dry and clean and that the rotor is properly seated and secured to the drive hub. Tubes must be properly balanced in the rotor (½ gram at 1 G is roughly equivalent to 250 kilograms @ 500,000 G's).
- If a tube breaks during the run, do the following:
- Turn off the centrifuge and allow the contents to stand undisturbed for 15 minutes before opening.
- Contact an Environment, Health & Safety specialist in biosafety, radiation safety, or chemical safety if you are unsure how to handle the spill: (858) 534-3660.
- Clean and disinfect the rotor in a chemical fume hood if possible.
- If infectious material was placed in the centrifuge, plan proper decontamination and cleanup.
- Make sure the rotor has STOPPED before opening the centrifuge lid when the run is complete.
- Clean and disinfect tubes, rotors, and centrifuge interiors after use. Never leave a centrifuge in a contaminated state.
- Follow the manufacturer's cleaning and disinfection recommendations to avoid rotor fatigue, distortion, and corrosion. Maintenance of tubes, rotors, and other components requires considerable care. No single method is suitable for all items.
- Wash only the buckets of a swinging bucket rotor. Never immerse the body of the rotor — the hanger mechanisms are hard to dry and can rust.
- Control rotor hazards: High-speed rotor heads are prone to metal fatigue. Failure to discard rotors after a predetermined amount of use can result in dangerous and expensive rotor disintegration. Avoiding rotor failure is critically important. Follow these guidelines to reduce the risk of rotor failure:
- Use the correct rotor with the correct centrifuge (i.e., Beckman rotors in Beckman centrifuges).
- Use sealed rotors, sealed buckets, or a guard bowl with a gasket and cover as well as safety centrifuge tubes (tube or bottle carrier with sealable cap or "O" gasketed cap).
- Record the purchase date of each rotor, along with manufacturing date and serial number.
- Read the operating manuals for your machine and follow the manufacturer's specifications for the rotors and tubes before using the equipment. Keep the manuals near the unit for easy reference.
- Follow the manufacturer's instructions. Maximum speed and sample density ratings designated by the manufacturer for each rotor are intended to prevent stress failures.
- Before running an ultracentrifuge, check the classification decal on the ultracentrifuge and make sure it matches the classification decal on the rotor.
- Track rotor use and service time:
- Keep a log book for each rotor, recording the length of time and speed for each use.
- Use the log book to track and discard rotors according to the manufacturer's recommended schedule.
- Wear this personal protective equipment:
- Lab coat with sleeves fully extended to the wrists
- Safety glasses or splash goggles and face shield
- Gloves, compatible with the hazardous material being processed
- Full-length pants
- Closed-toe shoes
- Infectious materials: High-speed centrifuge chambers are connected to a vacuum pump. If there's a breakage or accidental dispersion of infected particles, the pump and pump oil will become contaminated. Take these precautions:
- Place a HEPA filter between the centrifuge inner chamber and the vacuum pump when containment is needed.
- Work within a biosafety cabinet when filling centrifuge tubes or bottles, and when loading or removing them from the rotor (to provide containment in case a tube or bottle leaks or breaks).
- Radioactive material: Minor spills (microcurie amounts in a single room) can result in contamination of the floor, lab surfaces, equipment, and personnel.
Give first aid treatment, then seek medical attention immediately for any and all hazardous material exposures. Treat any exposure seriously, no matter how slight it may seem at the moment.
- Skin exposure: Flush exposed skin with water for at least 15 minutes while removing any contaminated clothing.
- Eye exposure: Flush eyes with water for at least 15 minutes. Affected individuals may need help holding their eyes open under water.
- Ingestion: Seek medical attention immediately.
- For all exposures:
- Seek medical attention immediately at an emergency room.
- Call Campus Police at (858) 534-4357 (534-HELP) and request an ambulance if transportation is necessary.
- Call the California Poison Control System, (800) 222-1222, if additional information is needed.
- See Hazardous Waste for disposal procedures for hazardous chemical, biological, and radioactive waste.
Notice: Disposal of hazardous waste using sinks, intentional evaporation, or as regular trash is against
the law. Campus laboratories must abide by strict state and federal waste disposal requirements.
You may be held liable for violations of applicable laws.