Safety Class

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This class is a prerequisite for Building or any hardware work.

Hazards to You[edit]

Here are some things to be careful of.

Electric shock[edit]

Unplug the power cord, or at the very least turn off the power switch on the back of the PSU before working inside a case.

Many computer parts feature capacitors as a component. Capacitors can hold a charge for a long time, even when the device has been unplugged for months or years. Smaller capacitors as found on mainboards or expansion cards are unlikely to hurt you. Never disassemble a power supply unit or CRT monitor as the capacitors inside can carry a dangerous level of charge.


There are hundreds of things in a computer case you can cut yourself on. Flexible nitrile work gloves are strongly recommended.

Respiratory hazard[edit]

Many, or even most, of the systems we open up will be full of dust. Be prepared for the occasional moldy spilled drink, mouse carcass, or discarded clothing ( koanhead has found each of these inside computers at least once.) The process of cleaning these old machines is bound to release all this nastiness. A dust mask and eye protection are recommended for these situations.

Little flying bits[edit]

Working on computers takes a gentle touch so this won't happen often. There are very few things inside a computer case that need to be forced. Don't be in a hurry. Occasionally parts will go flying and some eye protection is not a bad idea.


People make mistakes. Put a bunch of people in a small space with a lot going on, and they make more mistakes. Luckily, it works the opposite way as well. Keep an eye out for your neighbors, help when they need help, interrupt if they are about to do something hazardous, and above all be kind. We're all learning.

Hazards to Computers[edit]

Here are some ways you can break a computer. We don't care if you destroy a machine in Build, as long as you don't injure anyone. The more machines survive Build though, the faster people get their computers.

Electrostatic Discharge (ESD)[edit]

Your body builds up a static charge, especially in cold and dry environments. If you don't ground yourself, then you can discharge into certain sensitive equipment. The minimum amount of static shock it takes to damage a component is less than you can feel. CPUs, RAM and HDDs are all particularly vulnerable. Keep these components in anti-static bags until time for use. Use your grounding strap. Make a habit of periodically grounding out by touching the case if you don't have a strap. There is fancier equipment to protect components from ESD like special mats, which we might get in the future.


Don't get components wet. If they get wet, allow them to dry thoroughly before passing electricity through them. Keep drinks and food away from equipment.

Skin oils[edit]

No matter how clean you are, your skin exudes oils that can damage certain sensitive components. The pins on a CPU and the edge connectors on RAM and expansion cards are examples. Take care in handling these things, hold them by their edges and try not to touch them with your bare hands.


Where's the stuff?[edit]

FCS Safety Inventory Safety equipment is on the shelf. There are gloves, eye protection and dust masks.

Right now we have only one grounding strap and no tacky pads for ESD protection. We're working on it.

Demonstration of best practices[edit]

I recommend that Safety Class instructors use a broken computer to demonstrate best practices with safety equipment and procedures. Point out:

  • sharp edges
  • catch points
  • vulnerable areas
  • good grounding areas; how to ground a case
  • what parts to avoid touching
  • how to hold sensitive parts

Users Who have completed this class[edit]

sign with ~~~~ if you are willing to publicly acknowledge that you understand and will comply with best practices for safety, and that your presence at the facility depends on this.

AaronPeterson (talk) 03:59, 29 October 2014 (PDT)Cateogry:Procedures