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Named after its inventor Robert Bunsen, a Bunsen burner is a laboratory device that's commonly used to produce gas flames. Some Bunsen burners are powered by natural gas such as methane, whereas others are powered by petroleum gas, propane, butane or various mixtures thereof. Chemists and other laboratory professionals often use them to heat and sterilize equipment, as well as to produce combustion. Because they produce an open flame, however, certain safety precautions should be taken to minimize the risk of injury when using a Bunsen burner.

12 Inches of Clearance

You should only use a Bunsen burner when there's at least 12 inches of overhead clearance. In other words, don't use it under a shelf, light fixture or other equipment unless there's at least 12 inches of space. The heat from the flame could ignite nearby objects, especially if those objects are within 12 inches from the Bunsen burner.

Never Leave Flames Unattended

As with any flame-producing device, you should never leave an active Bunsen burner unattended. If the Bunsen burner falls off its stand, it could cause a fire. The golden rule of using any flame-burning device, including Bunsen burners, is to watch them at all times.

Allow to Cool Prior to Handling

Most Bunsen burners are equipped with a thermal-resistant handle to protect against minor burns. Nonetheless, you should still wait for the device to cool off before handling it. Depending on the specific type of Bunsen burner and how long it was active, it should cool off in 15 to 30 minutes.

Inspect Prior to Use

Of course, laboratory workers should also get into the habit of inspecting their Bunsen burner prior to using it. This means checking to ensure the gas valve and connected hoses are intact and not damaged. Even small hairline cracks in a gas hose can cause serious equipment failure and potentially injury. To prevent this from occurring, always inspect your Bunsen burner before using it.

Ignite with Sparker

The Bunsen burner should be lit with the accompanied sparker, not a lighter or match. The sparker is a small metal device that creates a spark when pressed. This allows for a safe and effective way to ignite the Bunsen burner once the gas valve has been turned on. Using a lighter or match is a safety hazard that increases the risk of injury.

Turn Off Gas After Use

Finally, make sure the gas has been turned off after you are finished using the Bunsen burner. Following these safety tips will help to reduce the risk of injury when using a Bunsen burner.

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