While an AAS can be very useful for the analysis of many different compounds, it can be potentially dangerous as well. In addition to volatile samples, the fuel and oxygen combinations used in igniting the flame sources can pose a risk to human health and property. The most commonly used fuel sources are air/acetylene gas or nitrous-oxide/acetylene gas. Proper ventilation must be practiced to avoid the build-up of potentially hazardous toxic fumes.
Below are some safety guidelines that should be followed when using AAS instruments:
- Use safety goggles when preparing and analyzing the samples.
- Inspect the entire gas system. Inspect the hose lines going from the AAS to the gas cylinders for cracks, holes, and flexibility. Make sure they are connected properly and look for any other anomalies that may cause malfunctions.
- Inspect electrical cords for exposed wires, cracks, or damaged plugs.
- Assure that the outlet and circuit breakers are sufficient to handle the instrument.
- Inspect the entire burner system. Look for excessive carbon build up, assure proper ventilation and pressure. Inspect the igniter as well as the drain system and hoses that run from the burner to the overflow bottle. The overflow bottle should be emptied to prevent any organic solvents from making contact with the sensors.
- Keep any flammable materials clear of the flames.
- Keep any doors closed in front of the burner and do not view the flames directly unless you are wearing the proper protective goggles.
- The exhaust vent should be placed directly over the flame source to vent out toxic fumes.
- Make sure a fire extinguisher is within range in case of an emergency.
- Before handling, allow the burner head to cool to room temperature.
- Before handling, make sure the lamps are cool to room temperature.
- Inspect the hollow cathode lamps for any imperfections that may cause malfunction. They must be handled with care and disposed of properly to minimize implosion risks.
- Know your samples! Be able to properly clean-up any hazardous liquids that may spill.
- Be familiar with the location of first aid kits.
- Make sure to use the proper PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) before using the AAS.
- NEVER LEAVE AN AAS UNATTENDED while the instrument is running!
- If there is a malfunction with the instrument, immediately turn it off as well as the fuel source to prevent a build-up of flammable gases.