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Autoclaves Built with User Safety in Mind

publication date: Aug 23, 2023
author/source: Priorclave Ltd


Designing autoclaves that help prevent user accidents is a fundamental aspect of all steam sterilizers leaving the manufacturing facility of Priorclave Ltd.

During a recent visit to a laboratory in North America, Priorclave North America’s CEO came across an incident in which first responders were there for an autoclave accident that had seriously injured at least one faculty member. This wasn’t a student, but an experienced technician.

Barbara Wells, Priorclave NA CEO learned later that it was attributed to ‘user error’ because they had opened the door prematurely, while the load was still hot. But that’s a fine line. It’s really a design error. So many US-built autoclaves can be opened before it’s safe. It shouldn’t be possible for user error to result in that sort of injury.”

With a Priorclave autoclave built in the UK such an “accident” is not possible. They are built to stringent European Pressure Equipment Directive. They cannot be opened prior to cooling.

As Priorclave’s Managing Director Tony Collins explains,

“The energy stored in an autoclave at operating temperatures, even at relatively low pressures, is immense. For that reason, autoclaves are subject to tight regulation of their construction and operation in the UK and European Union. Sadly, this is not the case in the United States, which we strenuously disagree with. In contrast to some other manufacturers, we do not produce these less safe US-compliant models, but instead ship every Priorclave with the same EU-mandated safeguards.”


Latching onto safety

Throughout the entire range of Priorclave autoclaves (40 to 750L chambers) they all incorporate a unique door latch that functions as a mechanical fail safe to our electronic thermal lock system. The door cannot and will not freely open while the chamber remains pressurised.

Firstly, the door and larch are extremely durable. Secondly, the unique Priorclave latch is capable of one-handed operation, for improved lab accessibility. But most importantly, this door is extremely safe, it cannot and will not freely open while the chamber remains pressurised.

It appears that the US do not set a regulatory standard for the temperature an autoclave chamber must reach prior to opening. That means that a lab tech opening an autoclave built to US regulatory specifications can open the door regardless of how cool—or, much more concerning, how HOT—the chamber or load inside might be.

Steam alone can instantly cause severe burns on the face and hands. However, sealed glassware abruptly exposed to sudden temperature drops can explode, sending hot liquids, steam, and broken glass flying all over your lab and the persons standing in front of the chamber.

It is nearly impossible to open the door of a Priorclave autoclave without training—and in a teaching environment, that’s exactly what you want. Because if someone hasn’t had even that minimal amount of supervised training, you don’t want them wandering around popping open autoclave doors.

These injuries don’t have to happen, especially in teaching and learning environments. Priorclave build their autoclaves so that, even when a user error occurs, the operator’s safety remains top priority. If you’re setting up a sterilizing station in a laboratory and want to ensure a superior level of safety for staff and students, invest in an Priorclave autoclave.  They are designed, manufactured to rigorous standard, and fully tested in the company’s dedicated UK production facility. Wherever the destination. All Priorclave have the same build and operation performance.


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