Lab Safety

Below are the safety regulations and procedures for the Mechanical and Nuclear Engineering Department. These procedures should be followed to ensure a safe environment for all students, faculty, and staff. Safety in our teaching and research laboratories is a direct responsibility of the faculty, staff, and teaching assistants concerned with such activities. The department encourages everyone to develop and demonstrate good practices and a safety culture that will promote safe, effective and efficient use of our laboratories.

Safety Regulation

All individuals working in a lab (students, faculty and staff) are required to receive training on handling of chemicals and chemical waste. If you are unable to attend a session within your department, Environmental Health and Safety (EHS) offers weekly sessions at room 6 Eisenhower Parking Deck. Additionally, retraining is required annually of anyone who has taken the initial training for chemical and chemical waste handling. This retraining consists of a review of the initial training information and is available online at www.ehs.psu.edu. The Department requires that your original copy of your EHS training be filed in room 138A Reber Building. Keep a copy for your files and place one in each laboratory that you work in the Chemical and Chemical Waste Management and Handling Log Book. Update annually and make a copy of the on-line refresher training document with your signature also to be filed. Information pertaining to Chemical and Chemical Waste Management and Handling can be found on the University chemical waste website: ehs.psu.edu/hazardous-materials.

Posted in the instrument room and on the bulletin boards are the University instructions regarding accidents. These instructions include the appropriate telephone numbers and procedures to follow in case of an accident. In addition, it is important to note that: All accidents must be reported to the Department office as soon as possible. In the case of any injury, please complete an injury report, which can be obtained from boxes located near the Instrument Room (23 Reber) and the Machine Shop Area. Failure to follow established departmental safety procedures is considered to be a very serious matter and will be dealt with by the department head and EHS.

The following are common safety precautions related to our department:

  • An individual is not permitted to work alone at a potentially hazardous task. For example, graduate students and staff are not allowed to operate power tools or similarly dangerous equipment at night unless someone else is in the area.
  • Safety glasses or face shields are available in the instrument room. Wear them when operating power tools, around glass that might shatter, when using compressed gases, working on pressure line connections, etc.
  • Around electrical equipment, avoid chances of grounding one part of your body while using your hands near "hot" lines. "One hand in the pocket" is a good rule. Don't experiment with circuits you don't understand; call in a specialist.
  • Accumulation of fumes from volatiles such as gasoline is a great hazard -- use proper ventilation.
  • Handling of compressed gas cylinders should be done with the respect afforded any potentially explosive material.
  • Storage of chemicals is not allowed in refrigerators unless the refrigerator is marked suitable for chemicals. These items by no means cover all the problem areas; however, they do serve as examples. Experimental set-ups of a potentially dangerous nature (explosion, high-voltage, etc.) are not to be operated until inspected and approved by the appropriate university safety representative.

Safety in the Laboratory

Undergraduates in the Laboratory

With 250 or more new students each year, the introduction of new laboratory projects and exercises result in increased chances of accidents in the laboratory. It is the direct responsibility of each faculty member or teaching assistant concerned with laboratory work to:

  • Make sure that all lab users take EHS training and document such training.
  • Take every safety precaution in designing and directing laboratory work.
  • Continually observe students in action and to watch for unsafe practices and unsafe equipment.
  • Observe rules in all buildings and laboratories

Specific Laboratory Safety Procedures

Shop Safety and Proper Use of Machines

Power tools can cause injury if precautions are not taken. It is expected that students will follow safe shop practices when using them.

Some basic procedures to follow to prevent abuse of the machines and possibly your person are:

  1. Safety Goggles: must be worn when operating any power tool. Also, when hammering or using a punch, chips can fly off these tools. Goggles are available from the instrument room.
  2. When operating any power tool, jewelry, such as rings, bracelets, earrings, etc., should be removed.
  3. Individuals who have long hair should use a hairnet or other suitable means to prevent hair from being caught while operating any power tools.
  4. Drill press: Material being drilled should be secured to the table using a drill vise of other suitable clamping arrangement. Wear goggles, drill bits can shatter. Be especially careful when drilling sheet metal or any thin material. Drill bits frequently grab the material when the bit "breaks through". This will instantly spin the work piece, you then have something similar to an electric blender with the blades exposed; not good for the hand that was trying to hold the piece. BE CAREFUL!
  5. Band saw: The band saw is equipped with a multi-purpose blade. It can be used for wood, plastic, and metal. Avoid cutting sheet metal as it tends to grab and remove the teeth on the blade, and you may find yourself cutting your hand or fingers. Always adjust the blade guide so it is just above your work piece. This keeps the blade in alignment and vertical. The blade may come off its rollers if this isn't done.
  6. Grinder: ALWAYS wear goggles. Never stand directly in front of the wheel, your piece can be grabbed or thrown by the wheel, often quite violently. Also, never grind wood, aluminum, or other soft metals or plastics on a grinder. Particles of these materials become clogged in the wheel, ruining its effectiveness. Also, from a safety standpoint, this clogging can unbalance the wheel which could cause it to break, or more likely, explode, throwing pieces in the direction of the operator. Similarly, do not grind on the side of the wheel, the sideways stress can shatter the wheel.
  7. General: Be courteous and professional, horseplay doesn't belong around power tools, someone could fall into the machine, the distraction could cause another to have an accident, etc. Also, clean up after yourself when you're done, the debris left behind could lead to an accident.

Laser Safety

Lasers are utilized in a variety of research programs within the department. The following guidelines should be used when operating any laser system:

  1. Do not attempt to use any laser unless you are familiar with its operation and potential hazards.
  2. Where appropriate, use laser safety goggles designed for the wavelength and power output of that laser.
  3. Never override the safety interlocks intended to prevent operation of the laser. For example, most laser systems prevent operation with the cover off the power supply or laser cavity.
  4. When optical elements such as lens, prisms, etc., are used with the laser, be careful about specularly reflected beams which result at each surface. These should be blocked to prevent personnel in the lab from potential hazards from reflected beams.
  5. Never look directly into the laser beam.

Compressed Gas Cylinders

  1. General Use: Compressed gas cylinders are safe for the purpose for which they are intended. Serious accidents connected with their handling, use and storage can almost invariably be traced to abuse or mishandling. The following rules cover the main safety rules to be observed in handling compressed gas cylinders. Information specific to certain gases follows.
    1. Compressed gas cylinders should always be moved using a cylinder cart. A cylinder cart is provided for that purpose next to the instrument room. The cart must be returned to that area immediately upon completion of the transfer.
    2. All compressed gas cylinders should be securely chained and stored only in approved areas.
    3. Where caps are provided for valve protection, such caps should be kept on cylinders except when cylinders are in use.
    4. Do not drop cylinders or permit them to strike each other violently.
    5. Make sure the regulator to be used is appropriate for the gas and cylinder pressure. Regulators or pressure gauges provided for use with a particular gas must not be used on cylinders containing different gases. Make sure that the threads on the regulator or other union are the same as those on cylinder valve outlet. Never force connections that do not fit nor tamper with
    6. safety devices on valves, cylinders or regulators.
    7. After attaching the regulator and before the cylinder valve is opened, see that adjusting screw of the regulator is released. Open the cylinder valve slowly, never permit gas to enter the regulator suddenly.
    8. Before the regulator is removed from cylinder, close the cylinder valve and release all gas from the regulator.
    9. Never store cylinders near highly flammable substances, such as oil, gasoline, etc.
    10. All cylinders should be protected against excessive rise or fall of temperature.
    11. Store full and empty cylinders apart. To avoid confusion label empty cylinders if stored near full cylinders. When returning empty cylinders, remove lower portion of the shipping tag attached to the cylinder. Close the valve and see that the protective caps and nuts for valve outlets are replaced before shipping empties.
    12. Never attempt to mix gases in a cylinder.
  2. Oxygen Use
    1. Never permit oil and greases to come in contact with oxygen cylinders, valve regulators, gauges and fittings. This is an explosive mixture.
    2. Do not handle oxygen cylinders or apparatus with oily hands or gloves.
    3. Never use oxygen from a cylinder without reducing the pressure through a suitable regulator intended for that purpose.
    4. After removing the valve cap, open the valve an instant to clear the opening of particles of dust or dirt.
    5. If the valve is difficult to open, point the valve opening away from you and use greater force. Avoid, however, the use of a wrench on valves equipped with hand wheels.
    6. After attaching the regulator and before the cylinder valve is opened, see that the adjusting screw of the regulator is released.
    7. Never permit oxygen to enter the regulator suddenly. Open the cylinder valve slowly.
    8. Before the regulator is removed from the cylinder, close the cylinder valve and release all gas from the regulator.
    9. Avoid sparks or flame from welding or cutting torch from coming in contact with cylinders.
    10. Never interchange oxygen regulators, hose, or other appliances with similar equipment intended for use with other gases.
    11. Where oxygen cylinders are connected to manifolds or headers, such manifolds must be of proper design and equipped with one or more pressure regulators. Oxygen manufacturers will be glad to furnish specifications for construction and installation of proper oxygen manifolds and pipelines.
    12. Fully open the cylinder valve when the cylinder is in use.
    13. Never attempt to mix gases in an oxygen cylinder.
    14. Never use oxygen as a substitute for compressed air. It is dangerous to use oxygen for pneumatic tools, to start Diesel engines, for imposing pressure in oil reservoirs, for paint spraying, for blowing out pipelines, etc.
    15. Do not store cylinders near flammable material, especially oil, grease, or any substance likely to cause or accelerate fire. Oxygen is not flammable, but supports combustion.
    16. Do not store reserve stocks of cylinders containing oxygen with reserve stocks of cylinders containing combustible gases. They should be stored and securely separately, with other similar containers.
  3. Acetylene Use
    1. Acetylene cylinders should be used and stored in an upright position to avoid possibility of
    2. drawing out acetone.
    3. Acetylene should never be used at a pressure exceeding 15 psi.
    4. Keep sparks and flame away from acetylene cylinders.
    5. Never use acetylene from cylinders through torches or other devices equipped with shut- off valves on the acetylene supply connections without reducing the pressure through a suitable regulator attached to the cylinder valve.
    6. After removing the valve cap, open valve an instant to clear opening of particles of dust or dirt.
    7. After attaching the regulator and before the cylinder valve is opened, see that the adjusting screw of the regulator is released.
    8. Before the regulator is removed from a cylinder, close the cylinder valve and release all gas from the regulator.
    9. Never interchange acetylene regulators, hose, or other appliances with similar equipment intended to be used with other gases.
    10. Never attempt to transfer acetylene from one cylinder to another nor to mix any other gas with it in the cylinder.
    11. Never use manifolds for acetylene cylinders unless constructed upon the advice of a qualified acetylene engineer.
    12. The wrench used for opening the cylinder valve should always be kept on the valve spindle when the cylinder is in use.
    13. When returning empty cylinders, see that valves are closed to prevent evaporation of acetone.
    14. Never under any circumstances, attempt to refill an acetylene cylinder.
    15. The pressure in an acetylene cylinder does not accurately indicate the amount of gas contained therein. The amount is determined by weight.
    16. Never test for acetylene leaks with an open flame. Use soapy water.
    17. Do not store reserve stocks of cylinders containing acetylene with reserve stocks of cylinders containing oxygen. They should be stored and secured separately, with other similar containers.
  4. Combustible Gas Use: such as Blaugas, Butane, Calorene, Carbo-Hydrogen, Compressed Natural Gas, Hydrogen, Nugas, Pintsch Gas, Propane, Pyrogene, Thermoline, etc.
    1. Keep sparks and flames away from cylinders.
    2. Connections to piping, regulators and other appliances should always be kept tight to prevent leakage.
    3. Never use an open flame to detect combustible gas leaks.
    4. When cylinders are not in use, keep valves tightly closed.
    5. Never use combustible gases from cylinders without reducing the pressure through a suitable regulator attached directly to the cylinder.
    6. After removing the valve cap, open the valve an instant to clear the opening of particles of dust or dirt.
    7. If the valve is difficult to open, point the valve opening away from you and use greater force. Avoid, however, the use of a wrench on valves equipped with hand wheels.
    8. After attaching the regulator and before opening the cylinder valve, see that the adjusting screw of regulator is released.
    9. Never permit the gas to enter the regulator suddenly. Open the cylinder valve slowly.
    10. Before a regulator is removed from a cylinder, close the cylinder valve and release all gas from the regulator.
    11. Manifolds for combustible gases should be used only if they are designed by qualified engineers. Gas manufacturers will furnish specifications for construction and installation of suitable manifolds.
    12. Never interchange combustible gas regulators, hose, or other appliances with similar equipment intended for use with other gases.
    13. Store all cylinders containing combustible gases in a well-ventilated place.
    14. Do not store reserve stocks of cylinders containing combustible gases with cylinders containing oxygen. They should be stored and secured separately, with other similar containers.
  5. Summary: Though they are somewhat similar to the preceding rules the following procedures given by the U.S. Department of Labor are more specific on some points:
    1. Cylinders containing compressed gases should be examined upon receipt. If they show signs of damage or leakage, they should be moved to a safe area and be returned to the supplier as soon as possible. Great care is needed in handling all cylinders. They must not be dropped or bumped against each other, and other objects must not be allowed to fall on them. They should be stored and used in safe areas where they will be protected against falling objects, removed from any source of heat, and from electrical wiring. Cylinders intended for use from an upright position must be stored and used in an upright position and secured by chain, cable, or other suitable means to prevent their falling over.
    2. Most cylinders are provided with a steel protective cap that screws on over the valve. These caps should be kept in place at all times except when cylinders are in use.
    3. A safe means of handling must be devised in order to avoid rough treatment while they are being transported. This would include providing special hand trucks, substantial racks or platforms with guard rails for vertical lifting by mechanical means, or other safety devices. When transported in motor vehicle, they should be fastened inside the body of the truck to reduce the possibility of being struck in the event of a traffic accident. Cylinders should not be lifted more than one at a time in slings and they should never be lifted by the valve protection cap.
    4. Storage areas should be in fire-resistant structures, and should be kept clean, free of combustible materials, well-lighted, and well-ventilated. Cylinders of oxygen should not be stored near cylinders containing flammable gases. If they have to be stored in the same area, they should be separated by a fire-resistant wall. Empty cylinders should be so marked and kept separate from the full ones.
    5. Cylinders should be positively identified as to the gases they contain. When a cylinder is empty, no attempt should be made to fill it with another kind of gas. Gases should never be mixed in a cylinder.

Chemicals

When using any chemicals, be sure that you are knowledgeable concerning their properties and hazards. Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) are available and should be read for all chemicals. The University Environment Health and Safety Office (865-6391) has a large collection of MSDS and should be contacted for copies. Always wear safety glasses, and if appropriate, suitable gloves or other required clothing. Further general rules are:

  1. Flammable liquid should be stored in and dispensed from approved safety containers and should be kept away from heat and open flames.
  2. All chemicals should be stored in suitable cabinets.
  3. Strong bases and acids which are supplied in glass bottles should be transported only in suitable bottles carriers (available in chemistry storeroom in Chandler Lab 865-2351).
  4. Smoking is not permitted anywhere in the Reber ME building or while handling chemicals or in storage areas containing chemicals.
  5. Chemical storage areas, hoods and work space should be neat and well organized.
  6. All containers containing chemicals must be clearly labeled including waste materials.
  7. Disposal of all chemicals should be done in a proper and safe manner. The University Safety Department should be consulted concerning proper disposal procedures.
  8. The consumption of food and drinks is not permitted in chemical laboratory or storage areas.
  9. If any spills or leaks (e.g. water) occur, please inform personnel in areas below or adjacent to the spill so that appropriate measures to protect personnel and equipment can be made.

Electrical Hazards

  1. Only qualified personnel are allowed to work on electrical equipment or energized lines.
  2. Sparks or smoke from a motor or other electrical equipment can mean a shock or fire hazard. Turn off the power at once and report the condition promptly.
  3. Electrical equipment should not be operated in wet areas.
  4. Electrical equipment possessing frayed or cracked cords should not be used until the cord is replaced.
  5. Remove rings and jewelry that may result in electrical contact while working on electrical equipment.

Emergency Contacts

  • For all Emergencies:
    Call 9-1-1
  • PSU Police Direct:
    814-863-1111
  • PSU EHS Direct:
    814-865-6391
  • Physical Plant:
    814-865-4731

First Aid Kit Locations (Reber)

  • 23 Reber Building (basement)
    25 Reber Building (basement)
    132 Reber Building

MNE Safety Coordinators:

COE Facilities Administration:

  • Clark W. Colborn
    101 Hammond Building
    814-865-7137
    cwc2@psu.edu
  • Diane Wagner, Facilities Coordinator
    101 Hammond Building
    814-863-4429
    dqw9@psu.edu

Contacts by Building (non-emergency):


Engineering Unit C / Hammond Building / Reber Building / University Support Building II


Leonhard Building

  • Rebecca Benson
    314 Leonhard Building
    814- 865-6492 rle4@psu.edu
  • H. Joseph Sommer
    337 Leonhard Building
    814-863-8997 hjs1@psu.edu

Research Building East / High Pressure Combustion Lab


Research Building West


 
 

About

The Department of Mechanical and Nuclear Engineering at Penn State is one of the nation’s largest and most successful engineering departments. We serve more than 1,000 undergraduate students and more than 330 graduate students

We offer B.S. degrees in mechanical engineering and nuclear engineering as well as resident (M.S., Ph.D.) and online (M.S., M.Eng.) graduate degrees in nuclear engineering and mechanical engineering. MNE's strength is in offering hands-on experience in highly relevant research areas, such as energy, homeland security, biomedical devices, and transportation systems.

Department of Mechanical and Nuclear Engineering

137 Reber Building

The Pennsylvania State University

University Park, PA 16802-4400

Phone: 814-865-2519