Safety in the Mass Spectrometry Facility

There are a number of safety aspects of working in the MS facility, these are outlined below:

Super conducting magnets

The FTICR has a 7 Tesla superconducting magnet. This is a fixed field or permanent magnet. If you have a heart pacemaker of any electronic medical devices or metal plates/inserts, you should not approach the instrument. The black and yellow chain surrounds the magnet as a warning, but this does not mean that there is no stray field outside of the area marked by the chain. Please note that it is strongly advised that pregnant women should not work in the vicinity of super conducting magnets. All metallic objects should be kept at least 2 metres away form the magnet can. Also note that strong magnetic fields can damage credit cards, access cards, mobile phones etc.

Cryogenic liquids

The FTICR magnetic is superconducting and has an operating temperature of a few Kelvin (approx. -270 Celsius). It is kept at this temperature using cryogenic liquids (liquid helium and liquid nitrogen). Please keep clear of the instrument and any dewars whilst cryogenic fills are taking place. Do not touch any hoses that are cold - these can cause nasty burns very quickly.

Magnet quench

The sudden boil-off of cryogens (and loss of magnetic field) is called a quench. A quench is an extremely unlikely occurrence under normal circumstances, but can happen. If a quench happens there will be a very loud venting of the gases at the top of the magnet and a dense white fog. This vapour cloud will seek the highest point in the room as it warms and will expand to over 700 times in volume.

Nothing can stop a magnet quench once it begins and there is a real and serious risk of asphyxiation - so vacate the lab IMMEDIATELY, keeping underneath the vapour cloud if you can. Make sure the lab is empty and close the doors as soon as you can. Contact MS staff and/or the SOC safety officer urgently (contact security if out of hours). On no account re-enter the room until staff have given you permission.

High temperatures

There is a wide range of instruments in the facility - most of which have heated sources (>400 Celsius in some cases). These are not always fully enclosed - you will be burned if you touch source housings.

High voltages

Many of the instruments operate at high voltages (2.5 - 8 kV). In most cases these are enclosed and there are interlocks which should prevent any electric shocks. But it is best not to touch any ionisation sources if you do not know what you are doing.

Low pressure / high vacuum

All of the instruments operate at low pressure and this should not represent a safety risk.

UV lasers

The MALDI instruments have UV lasers. These are contained within the instrument and it is not possible to operate them with the laser uncovered. Please note that engineers sometimes are required to operate the lasers in service mode with interlocks disabled - NEVER look at the laser under any circumstances.