Lab ovens are an essential component of many labs. Laboratory ovens are commonly used for drying glassware, drying and melting samples and for chemical reactions. They can also pose dangerous hazards in your lab - toxic fumes, fire and explosions - oh my!
Luckily we have Ollie the Lab Collie and Dr. Bunsen to help us out with some tips on choosing an oven, and how to protect yourself and your lab.
There are two key precautions you can take before you even begin your experiments to ensure safety in your lab. The first is to carefully choose the type of oven you need for your application. You will want to consider the maximum temperature, as well as the temperature range you will require. Look for models that have safety certifications such as UL and CSA. For flammable solvents and combustible materials, choose a vacuum oven. Be careful with organic solvents, as they may require additional safety accessories for safe use.
After choosing the correct oven, reading the operation manual is the first step in incident prevention. PPE and emergency equipment are essential things to have - make sure you have a fire extinguisher and good ventilation in the area where the oven will be operating. In the event of smoke, turn off the power and circuit breaker. Ensure ventilation is working, evacuate if necessary. Wait for the oven to cool before opening the door.
Heat and solvent resistant gloves
Eye and face protection
Rubber sleeve protectors and apron
As always - closed toed shoes and hair must be tied back
Inspect the oven prior to use
Check cord, outlet and ensure the interior of the oven is free of debris and chemical spills/ residue.
If the oven is not operating within parameters, it must be taken out of service.
Regularly check oven calibration to ensure temperature read-out is accurate with a non-mercury thermometer
Ensure oven is set to the correct temperature including the high temperature shut-off set point
Do not use in an area with flammable vapors or explosive gas
Always ground the unit to prevent electrical shock/surge
Do not disassemble or modify the unit
Do not touch the door or window while in use or immediately after
During a thunderstorm, turn off the unit and disconnect form circuit to prevent surge.
Periodically check safety devices - such as temperature over-rise monitor.
Only use shelves meant for the unit
Avoid using substances that will corrode the tubing
Wait for the chamber to cool before removing items.
When drying glass/plastic, ensure materials can withstand temperatures to avoid melting or igniting.
Special considerations for Vacuum Ovens:
When using a sample with a large volume of solvent, be sure to use a trap to protect the vacuum pump and oil.