DEPARTMENT OF OCCUPATIONAL HEALTH AND SAFETY
GUIDELINES FOR AUTOCLAVES
Autoclaves provide an effective and efficient means of sterilizing and decomposing materials that may be biohazardous or been exposed to biohazardous or potentially biohazardous materials.
As autoclaves operate under high (15 pounds per square inch or higher) pressure and temperature, there is a significant risk of injury, such as burns from hot steam or surfaces and/or explosion, due to improper usage. Therefore appropriate controls and procedures must be in place to minimize any potential harm.
The legislation governing the installation and maintenance of autoclaves is Ontario Regulation 220/01 (Boilers and Pressure Vessels) under the Technical Standards and Safety Act.
It is the responsibility of the designate i.e., principal investigator or lab supervisor, who uses autoclaves, to ensure that training and testing is conducted for each autoclave that they use and that a record is available for inspection. The designate shall notify the Insurance and Risk Management Services and the Biosafety Officer of new or existing autoclaves which have not been previously declared (see Section VIII).
The designate must ensure that each autoclave is routinely monitored as follows:
Temperature – The designate must check to ensure that:
the indicating thermometer on the autoclave is calibrated annually, and
a minimum temperature of 250degF (or 121degC) is attained and the processing time of each cycle is adequate to achieve sterilization of the entire load. Note: Longer time and/or higher temperature may be necessary depending on the quality, quantity and compaction of the load.
Biological Indicators – In accordance with Health Canada and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, biological indicators (e.g., Bacillus Stearothermophilis spores) are to be used at least monthly to ensure that autoclaves achieve appropriate steam penetration and temperature to achieve effective decontamination. The designate should ensure that the specific autoclave(s) they use are routinely monitored using biological indicators and records are available for inspection by the Biosafety Officer or government authorities.
EXAMPLE of Biological Indicators: Geobacillus Stearothermophilis- EZ Test (SGM Biotech) available from Fisher Scientific, cat.no.29801 074 or 3M Attest Rapid Readout Biological Indicators or Steris Verify Integrator Laminated and EO Integrators.
Chemical Indicators - Chemical indicators (i.e., autoclave tape) are meant to be used in conjunction with biological indicator and physical monitors (i.e., pressure and temperature readings). They provide instant results for day-to-day monitoring indicating that the load has been processed; however, they must not be used as the sole indicators of sterility.
Revised: Nov., 2007