CleanRoom Safety 101

Scientific research facilities and certain manufacturing plants use CleanRooms to safeguard products or specimens against environmental contamination. Maintenance personal need to keep temperatures and air purity at consistent levels. A CleanRoom is designed to seal out various contaminants, including dust particles, microbes, mold spores and chemical vapors. Working safely in a CleanRoom requires specific procedural training to preserve the stored products and to prevent human contact with harmful substances.

According to ThomasNet’s article – More about Cleanrooms,

CleanRooms are classified with an ISO rating from one to nine, with nine designating the highest level of contaminant filtration. A high-level CleanRoom is filtered to keep out every possible airborne particle or substance. The two most common types of filters used for CleanRooms are designated

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Industries Using CleanRooms

The computer technology sector uses CleanRooms for microprocessor chip manufacturing. The circuitry of these chips is extremely delicate and can incur damage from only a single dust particle. The same CleanRoom requirements apply to other microelectronics fabrication processes, such as semiconductor manufacturing. Other industries that require the use of CleanRooms include pharmaceuticals, biotechnology, medical research and telecommunications.

Working Safely in a CleanRoom

Personnel working in any level of CleanRoom need to complete specific and through training to avoid accidental contamination. Equipment used in CleanRooms is often specialized and requires definite operational procedures as well. This type of training normally entails classroom instruction and hands-on practice before staff members are cleared to work in a CleanRoom. Some facilities may also require new employees to pass an exam covering CleanRoom procedures at the end of a training period.

Working in a high-level CleanRoom requires the use of personal protective equipment, including gloves, goggles, shoe coverings and a contamination prevention suit. Many CleanRooms have PPE floor signs to inform workers that PPE is required. Some CleanRoom workers may also need to use a rotating brush machine to clean their shoes prior to putting on shoe coverings. The highest level of CleanRoom also requires passage through an airlock chamber as an additional safeguard against contamination. In any case of entering a CleanRoom, staff members are also advised to listen carefully to their supervisors for any additional safety instructions.

Maintaining CleanRoom Conditions

On the day of work assigned in a CleanRoom, newly trained employees have a general set of guidelines to follow for any level of CleanRoom. These steps include:

  • Showering before leaving for work
  • Refraining from wearing any hairspray, perfume or cologne
  • Wearing suitable attire under personal protective gear
  • Discarding gum or hard candy beforehand
  • Securing personal items in a locker or other safe place

For convenience and security against contamination, CleanRoom personnel also keep a specific order for putting on personal protective clothing. The general rule is to separate the protective gear into a “getting dressed” pile away from other clothing and belongings. This tactic works well for efficiency along with safety.

Protective gear for a high-level CleanRoom can consist of coveralls, a zip-up jacket, head covering and face covering for male workers with facial hair. Some facilities have foot covering dispensers that allow the wearer to have booties slipped over their regular shoes without the need to touch either one with hands. Outdoor shoes should also never be worn inside a CleanRoom, and staff members should instead bring a clean pair.

Once finished putting on all protective clothing for working in a CleanRoom, personnel need to think of themselves as surgeons in a sterile environment. Avoiding touching any walls or other surfaces is imperative for avoiding possible contamination. If touching a surface is absolutely necessary, a worker should change to a clean pair of gloves before entering the CleanRoom. The final step is to walk through the forced-air chamber if one is in use. Some CleanRoom entrances also have anti-static mats to step on to discharge any remaining static electricity that might damage delicate hardware.

Additional CleanRoom Considerations

While working in a CleanRoom, staff members need to practice deliberate movements that are slower than normal. Sudden or jerky movement can shed microscopic particles into the air, increasing the chance of damage or contamination. Everyone working in a CleanRoom should keep all equipment and tools correctly wiped down as instructed in their training sessions. Items not to bring into a CleanRoom are as follows:

  • Pencils or other items containing graphite
  • Non-approved sanitized paper
  • Tape not approved for CleanRoom use
  • Any abrasive materials

Safety Within a CleanRoom

Some facilities keep hazardous chemicals in CleanRooms, so employees should first become familiar with each substance and read through its material safety data sheet (MSDS). No staff members should use unfamiliar equipment without first receiving proper training. Everyone also needs to note the locations of safety equipment, such as eye wash stations and fire extinguishers. Floor signs (like this eye wash station sign) are commonly used to help locate various safety locations. Thorough training in CleanRoom procedures includes emergency evacuation drills, use of cut-off switches, locations of fire exits and any related procedures.

Chemical handling in a CleanRoom requires knowledge of clean-up procedures for all types of these potentially harmful substances, including acids and other corrosives. This part of CleanRoom training can make the difference between a costly, dangerous accident and a minor incident that gets resolved quickly.

Human error is the most common cause of CleanRoom accidents or contamination. A large percentage of these incidents can be eliminated with careful attention to safety procedures. Maintaining the integrity of a CleanRoom protects delicate materials from costly damage. It also ensures the safety of all personnel working in a CleanRoom as part of their day-to-day job activities. Training in CleanRoom procedures takes time and monetary investment, but it is an essential part of running these types of facilities.

Additional Resources