There are times when a lab needs shutting down and securing, and then starting up again. With us it was due to a maintenance of the electrical systems. Shutting down and securing a lab, and then restarting it is a task in itself.
Some questions to consider prior to shut down: how long will the shut down last? Why is the shut down occurring? What systems are likely to be affected (in the above example, we lost power to the whole lab)? Are there likely to be non-lab staff in the lab during the time? Are there any unusual states that are likely to be triggered by the shut-down (again, in our example a chronic ‘lack of power’ alarm was triggered via the emergency back up power system, due to the general power shortage)? What risks can be secured? During the restart, are there any additional risks, such as power surges etc.?
A short checklist for lab shut down and restart is given here:
1. Prior to shut down
- Has everyone in the lab been told of the shut down?
- Have all the supervisors etc. been told of the shut down?
- Has it been made clear that experiments need to be shut down prior to the lab shut down?
- Have arrangements been made to remove waste beforehand, insofar as that is feasible? This is particularly a problem if the air conditioning systems are affected, as waste can rot and stink quickly?
- Are there any sensitive items that need special handling? For example temperature-sensitive materials that need storing at low temperatures – can you organize their storage off-site during the shut down? Is there a procedure for tracking these in place?
- Has a comprehensive list been made of all people who may visit the lab during shut down?
- Have all potential visitors been briefed on potential hazards and safety procedures?
2. During shut down
- Are all experiments shut down and secured?
- Is all equipment secured?
- If you are using a Lock Out, Tag Out (LOTO) system, has that been implemented?
- If there is a risk of a power-surge, has all equipment been properly isolated?
- Have all gas lines been secured, and gases deactivated at the cylinder?
- Have all flammable and other hazardous chemicals been placed in the proper chemical cabinets? Have these cabinets been duly locked?
- Have all staff vacated the premises with instructions not to return until the shut down is complete?
3. During restart
- Has there been any changes to the lab? Could any of these changes pose a risk?
- Has there been any changes to the inventory during the shut down? Note that accidentally leaving behind an item can be as much of a problem as removing one
- Have any items that were away from the lab been restored to their place?
- Has equipment been properly reconnected to the system? Has there been any problem while reconnecting?
- Has the restart been communicated to all lab workers?