Laboratory Safety: Electrical Hazards

This is the second part of our series on the hazards posed with electrical equipment.
by: Nicole Campbell, Safety and Industrial Hygiene Specialist


Last month, we reviewed two common issues we find in laboratories: frayed cords and improper use of extension cords. This month, we continue our discussion on the use of extension cords and power strips, and cover use of electrical equipment with flammable liquids.

Extension Cords

  • Extension cords are only intended for temporary and short-term use, such as experiments lasting no more than 90 days.
  • If you are using extension cords to power permanently installed laboratory equipment (i.e, not portable), you do not have an adequate number of electrical outlets installed.
  • If necessary, discuss having additional receptacles installed near the equipment. Campus services can help with this.
  • Do not run extension cords through doors, walls or between labs.

Power Strips

  • Power strips should not be used for these types of equipment:

Screen Shot 2015-11-13 at 10.08.02 AM

If you need help replacing your power strip, please contact EHSO.

Electrical Equipment & Flammable Vapors

  • Minimize the generation of flammable vapors near electrical equipment. Flammable substances in the laboratory should be handled in locations with adequate ventilation, such as chemical fume hoods and according to your written Standard Operating Procedure (SOP).
  • Additional care should be taken when heating flammable liquids on electric hot plate/stirrer combos. As discussed in May 2015 Lab Rat, the best practice is to keep equipment unplugged when not in use.
  • Flammable liquids should not be stored next to hot plates or stir plates.

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