Was having left the equipment on too long found to have caused the fire? If so, did the operating manual specify how long the equipment could be operated continuously? Was the equipment installed and operated according to the manufacturer's specifications? Or was the equipment found to have been defective? You could install timers but that won't help if the equipment is not being operated properly and I have seen timers overheat and fail as well. Ttimers are available over a wide range of power capacities. That means someone could end up using one of insufficient power rating unless they know how to choose. If the equipment was in good repair, installed properly, and operated within the manufacturer's recommendations, then there isn't much you can say or do unless a visual inspection would have spotted a potential problem. Depending on the actual cause of the fire, a memo might simply address the need to read and understand the manufacturer's operating instructions and make regular visual inspections looking for signs of overheating, deteriorated power cords, improper power connection, etc.
My experience has been that most grad students (and their faculty advisers) outside of our electrical engineering department are surprisingly unfamiliar with electrical safety and rarely read the safety portion of the operating manuals for their equipment. They rarely even hang on to them. I'm in a similar situation as a result of water damage from a cooling line that became displaced overnight recently. We've had this happen several times over the years and it causes a lot of damage. I'd like to add water cooling systems to a list of activities that require a safety review before start-up. Maybe I should include water baths to my list.
We had a water bath fire recently that led to water damage in labs below the site of the fire. The building's safety committee would like to take advantage of this learning moment to circulate best practices for managing the potential of a fire associated with lab equipment. However, we're having trouble with identifying specific pointers in this regard and I haven't come up with a google search yet that yields something appropriate for a one memo that addresses the issue. One idea that came up was putting timers on equipment so that they won't be left on for long periods of time through forgetfulness.
I wonder if anyone on DCHAS-L has something along these lines.
Thanks for any help with this.
Ralph Stuart CIH
Chemical Hygiene Officer
Department of Environmental Health and Safety
Previous post | Top of Page | Next post