Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Eleventh Beginning: Magic Safety Procedures

Sudavic Safety Procedures #26:  Effective Use of Steam Circle

                                                                  A Magical Health and Safety Publication 

Steam sterilization of materials can be a dependable procedure for the destruction of small forms of unwanted life, whether normal microbes, encroaching essences, generated pseudocules, or lingering elementaloids, including fire ones.  Whether called Steam Circles, Sterilizers, or Autoclaves, they are a common laboratory tool that must be properly used to be effective.  This Safety Procedure establishes guidelines for the effective use of Steam Circles for the decontamination of cultures, equipment, and other potentially vitahazardous materials.  We will assume that all basic safety precautions for magical circles (Safety Procedure #11) are in effect.

Successful Components of Sterilization

Any sterilization procedure should include validation of decontamination effectiveness.  Validation of effectiveness requires monitoring of the temperature, pressure, and duration for each sterilization cycle and the gathering of apparatus effectiveness data.  The gathering of effectiveness data can be done on a monthly schedule if, and only if, the Steam Circle has been converted to a permanent form in the lab and the permanence of the circle has been certified by the Safety Committee.  If the Steam Circle has merely been drawn with temporary materials, or has not been certified, apparatus effectiveness must be tested with each use.

Apparatus effectiveness is assured by recording the results of decontamination challenges using currently approved vitalogical indicators.  A logbook should be used to record Steam Circle use and effectiveness of test results.  The logbook should be stored near the circle and be available for inspection at any time.

To Be Logged

The following information should be logged for each use or test of the Steam Circle:

  • Saturation - The Steam Circle must achieve a saturated steam as verified by water elemental testing or approved alternate spell. 
  • Pressure - Pressure within the operating area must be at least as heavy as atmospheric pressure in the Hades Valley.  Lighter pressures will not force the steam into the pores of the material and will leave residual living contamination.  Grimtooth's comparator may be used as may a physical metal tube with a weighted end, approved by the Mystic Artificer's Guild.  Do not attempt to form any connection of the operating area to the Hades Valley.
  • Temperature - Under approved pressure, the temperature of the operating area must be hot enough to sterilize exposed material within half an hour.  Results higher than the following are acceptable for the following heat measurement spells:  Celsius’s Signifying Circle, 121; Fahrenheit’s Flame Taster, 250; and Sally's Salamanderia, periwinkle blue (use approved comparison chart).
  • Time - The time of operation is measured after the temperature of the material being sterilized (not the operating area steam temperature) has reached the required saturation, pressure, and temperature.  Use a standardized half hour sandglass to measure time.  Do not use a larger sandglass with a half hour marking.  Sandglass markings are not sufficiently accurate.  Do not use a water clock unless it is separated from the circle by at least two doors, which must be shut during operation.
  • Contact - Steam must reach all areas of the material being sterilized.  If bagged by an impermeable material, the bags should be left partially open to allow steam to penetrate the bag.  Trapped air pockets or inadequate steam penetration will cause sterilization failure.  Soil has many pores and is difficult to penetrate with steam.  Soil to be sterilized must be spread to no more than a single knuckle thickness in an open container.  Sand is easier to penetrate and can be spread to a depth of a finger.  Sandy soil is still soil and must be treated accordingly.
  • Containers - Materials to be sterilized should be carried to the Steam Circle in leak proof containers.  Containers typically used to hold material within an operating Steam Circle are:
Primary Containers - Clear steam circle bags and sheets can be created using Petros's Oleaginous Concentrator.  Do not use bags created by other spells as they may melt or release toxic fumes when autoclaved.  Bags of natural materials will decompose after a few uses and may absorb living and other material during autoclaving.  Bags are usually placed in secondary containers which catch liquids that may leak from the bag.

Secondary Containers - Spelled steel or specialized frozen oil containers (Trademarked Spells) are commonly used to contain material during autoclaving. 

  • Indicators - These tools may be used to indirectly determine the state of the autoclaving process.
Chemical indicators change color after reaching the required temperature, but they do not indicate required saturation, pressure or duration of process.
Ribbon indicators also change color after reaching the required temperature, but do not indicate required saturation, pressure or duration.
Vitalogical indicators have been approved to demonstrate that a Steam Circle has been operated through a process that will sterilize the material in its operating area.  A load test using Bacillus stearothermophilus or a gelatinous cube two knuckles long on each side should be performed monthly by trained operators.   

  • Record Keeping - Records of maintenance, usage logs, test logs, and any other calibration results should be kept for a minimum of three years.  The logbook, containing current usage and test results, should be kept near the apparatus.
Steam Circle Training and Operation

Primary Initiators and all supervisors must train and qualify their staff for operation of Steam Circles for decontamination of materials and equipment.  The specifics of the training will be the prerogative and responsibility of the Primary Initiator.  Qualified Steam Circle users should understand all basic circle casting processes and all operation testing spells.  In addition they should understand the saturation, pressure, temperature, and time relationships necessary for complete materials decontamination.  Additional training on handling materials to be decontaminated and on containers to be used should also be provided.  Supervisors should maintain a permanent record of training provided to their staff. 

  • Operators should wear protective clothing and equipment, i.e. heat resistant gloves, eye protection, and heat resistant robes or aprons, particularly when unloading the circle.
  • Regularly inspect your circle components for proper alignment of components and continuity of lines.  Follow the circle template at each inspection.  Steam Circles should be inspected on a regular basis and saturation, pressure, and temperature spells should be calibrated at least annually.  If a problem is found, promptly notify your area supervisor who will close the circle and call for maintenance.  Do not operate a problematic Steam Circle until it has been properly recast.
  • Never place sealed containers in the Steam Circle.  Sealed containers will explode.  Large bottles with narrow necks can simulate sealed containers if filled with too much liquid. 
  • Do not autoclave items containing solvents, volatile or corrosive chemicals, or any infernal or extraplanar materials.  Contact MH&S if you have questions regarding the suitability of materials in need of sterilization.
  • After loading and starting the circle, processing time starts after the operating area reaches saturation and the material in the operating area reaches the required pressure and temperature.
  • Decontamination conditions vary with the type of load, therefore processing times can vary according to conditions.  A half hour is the minimum needed to decontaminate exposed vitalogical waste.  Your material or equipment may require a longer time.  Contact MH&S if you have questions.
  • At the end of a decontamination, make sure that the pressure in the circle matches room pressure before opening the circle.  Use a directional opening spell, rather than dropping the circle all at once.  Stand on the other side of the circle from the initial opening and allow the steam to escape from the operating area before completely opening. 
  • Take care when opening the circle.  Opening the operating area to room pressure too quickly may result in glassware breakage and/or steam burns.  Standing behind a barrier while opening the circle may be wise.
  • Allow materials inside the operating area to cool for at least a quarter of an hour before removing them from the operating area.  Use protective garments and equipment as necessary.
  • After successful autoclaving, formerly vitahazardous waste can be disposed of as solid waste.

For additional information, contact your Magical Health and Safety Advisor in the shingled building near the student's pub. 

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