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Working Safely with Vacuum

Whether you are using house vacuum or a vacuum pump located in your lab, there are a few safety issues to consider.

  • Protect the vacuum lines and pump with a trap. This prevents vapors from release into the building, protects employees who work on the vacuum lines and pump, and protects the equipment from potentially damaging materials. For more information, see this newsletter article from Princeton.
  • Avoid risk of implosion by using vacuum-rated glassware.  Standard glassware may implode when subjected to vacuum. Heavy-walled filtering flasks should be used for any vacuum filtering applications and to collect fluid that may be aspirated out of a cold trap. Even a filtering flask may implode, and therefore must be taped or shielded to restrain flying glass. OESO recommends that researchers consider use of PVC-coated glass filtering flasks or Nalgene filtering flasks, as these will not produce flying glass shards if they fail. Uncoated glass filtering flasts must comply with ASTM E1406 (this will be indicated in product literature).
    • Implosions of standard flasks have occurred at DukeThis short video clip was taken during a recreation of an implosion in Sands in October 2008.
  • Work in a hood and wear appropriate PPE. Consider the possibility of flying glass, splattered chemicals, and fire, and set up your operations accordingly.  A face shield should be worn and, if the filtering flask is on the floor, closed-toed shoes (though this should be standard laboratory attire).

If you are using a vacuum pump located in your lab:

  • Belts and pulleys on the pump must be guarded (covered).
  • The exhaust from the pump should be vented to a chemical fume hood or other local exhaust hood.