The Sonic Gates

Centrifuge Safety

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Use And Scheduled Maintenance

  • Do not attempt to operate a centrifuge until you have received instruction in its specific operation. 
  • Read the operation manual. If not available contact the manufacturer for a copy. Ask an experienced colleague to demonstrate the procedures. 
  • Individual users are responsible for the condition of the centrifuge machine and rotors during and at the end of procedures. This responsibility includes proper loading, controlling speed to safe levels, safe stopping, removal of materials, and cleanup 
  • Ultra centrifuge rotors require special cleaning procedures to prevent scratching of surfaces, which can lead to stress points and possible rotor failure during operation. 
  • Make sure table top centrifuges are firmly anchored in a location where its vibration will not cause bottles or equipment to fall. 
  • Always close the centrifuge lid during operation and do not leave until full operating speed is attained and the unit is running smoothly. 
  • Stop the centrifuge immediately and check the load balance if vibration occurs. Check swing-out buckets for clearance and support. 
  • Clean rotors and buckets with non-corrosive cleaner regularly and allow to fully air dry.
  • Maintain a “run log” to keep track of the number of runs on the rotor. Be sure to replace centrifuge parts on the manufacturer’s maintenance schedule. 
  • Clean rotors and buckets with non-corrosive cleaner regularly and allow to fully air dry. 
  • Inspect the shell and mechanical parts for corrosion, pitting or metal fatigue. 
  • Check the rotor for rough spots, pitting, and discoloration. If noticed, check with the manufacturer before using. · Check the bearings for proper lubrication. 
  • Check the O-ring for proper attachment and condition.
  • Assure vacuum grease is fresh. 
  • Use only screw capped cups/containers in the centrifuge. Parafilm does not prevent splatter.

Does your unit have:

  • balance capability each time the centrifuge is used 
  • adequate shielding against accidental "flyaways"
  • suction cups or heel brakes to prevent "walking" 
  • accessibility of parts, particularly for rotor removal 
  • lid equipped with disconnect switch which shuts off rotor if the lid is opened 
  • safe-guard for handling flammables and pathogens. (This may include negative exhaust ventilation, a safe location or sealed cups.) 
  • positive locking of head 
  • electrical grounding
  • locations where vibration will not cause bottles or equipment to fall off shelves

Watch for:

Unbalanced loads

  • Keep lid closed during operation and shut down
  • Stop the rotor if you observe anything abnormal, such as noise or vibration


  • Corrosion on the rotor or bucket can lead to failure. 
  • Follow the maintenance schedule and if in doubt, the rotor manufacturer will inspect the rotor using a Ultrasound technique. This is normally a free service.

Broken tubes

  • When loading the rotor examine tubes for signs of stress and discard tubes that look suspicious. 
  • Be aware of any spillage in the bucket. Clean it immediately.

Centrifuge Accident

What did we learn from the Ultra Centrifuge accident at Cornell in December of 1998?

Online Centrifuge Training

The Howard Hughes Medical Institute offers a very good online training course free at Choose Colleagues and visitors. Register, Select either Start from the Beginning if you have not taken the entire course before or Go Directly to the Content to select just Centrifuges. The full course takes 45 – 60 minutes. Reviewing the centrifuge section takes less than 5 minutes.