Report on U Hawaii explosion delayed until the end of June
May24

Report on U Hawaii explosion delayed until the end of June

From the University of Hawaii, the latest on one of the investigations into the March explosion that caused a postdoctoral researcher to lose one of her arms: The independent investigation into the March 16, 2016 explosion in a University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa laboratory is now expected to be complete by end of June 2016. The University of California Center for Laboratory Safety, retained by UH to conduct the investigation, has arranged to test certain materials. The final completion of the investigation report is dependent on the testing and the test results. The investigation was originally to be completed by the end of April, then the University of Hawaii said late...

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“Safety Begins in the Classroom” videos now available from #ACSSanDiego
May19

“Safety Begins in the Classroom” videos now available from #ACSSanDiego

ACS has now posted videos from the National Meeting held in March in San Diego, including those from the Division of Chemical Health & Safety’s session on “Safety Begins in the Classroom: Demonstrations, Awareness & Pre-Lab Planning”: “Wild, wild west to GHS: Reflections on my first year as a general chemistry laboratory coordinator,” by Rebecca Sansom & Matthew B. Allen of Brigham Young University “Chemical demonstrations: The good, the bad, the ugly,” by David A. Katz, self-described “chemist, educator, expert demonstrator, science communicator, and consultant” “Development of demonstrations – a collaborative project between the safety office and teaching assistants,” by Debbie Decker & Joshua Greenfield of the University of California, Davis The division already posted slides from this and other sessions at the...

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Videos on nitric acid waste and vented caps
May18

Videos on nitric acid waste and vented caps

Northwestern University’s Office for Research Safety has two new videos available: One is about nitric acid and what happens when it’s mixed with organic materials, and the other is about using vented caps. vimeo Video | w=640 h=360 Nitric Acid Waste from ORS Safety Training on Vimeo. vimeo Video | w=640 h=360 Vented Caps from ORS Safety Training on Vimeo. My spreadsheet of safety videos is available here. As always, please let me know if I should add...

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Process safety newsletters
May17

Process safety newsletters

From AIChE’s Center for Chemical Process Safety, the “Process Safety Beacons” so far this year: Hydrate Hazards – “When a hydrate forms it can plug piping, instrument connections, valves, and other equipment causing process upsets which may be hazardous. … Clearing a blockage from hydrate formation could be a routine or non-routine work activity that is hazardous if not done properly.” Still Overflowing Tanks! – “With all of the complex operations going on in many process facilities, it is surprising that putting more material into a tank than will fit is a frequent contributor to major incidents.” Safety Device or Control Device? – “Supervisors decided that the operator could be given other work to do while the tank was filling since there was a high level shutdown. No management of change review was done. A device that was intended to be a second layer of protection became the primary control. When the high level instrument failed, there was nobody in the area and the spill was actually larger.” Plugged Flame Arrester Causes Explosion – “The flame arrester on an oil tank was corroded and plugged with deposits. This resulted in the tank ‘breathing’ through a sample hatch at the tank rather than through the flame arrester as intended. When it was hot, during the day, vapors would exit the tank through the hatch.” More Repeat Incidents! – “If you use any hazardous materials, or if your process operates at hazardous conditions, you should understand what incidents have happened in the past with the materials and process conditions in your...

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“Applying a lab safety culture to nanotechnology” webinar
May12

“Applying a lab safety culture to nanotechnology” webinar

The U.S. National Nanotechnology Coordination Office is launching what it’s calling the “NanoEHS Webinar Series.” The first one is “Applying a Lab Safety Culture to Nanotechnology: Educating the Next Generation of Nanoscientists”. It will be held on Wednesday, May 18, starting at 11 AM Pacific/2 PM Eastern. Here’s the description: The first webinar will discuss how an effective culture of safety in the research laboratory facilitates safe and responsible nanomaterial research and supports the [National Nanotechnology Initiative] goal of responsible development. Other major goals of this webinar are to build awareness of existing information resources; facilitate safe nanotechnology practices within the overall lab safety culture; engage industry in the discussion by sharing practices and expectations; and ensure that safety training in academia is viewed as an important job skill. Who: Speakers at the event will include: Moderator • Charles L. Geraci, Jr. – Associate Director for Nanotechnology and co-manager of the Nanotechnology Research Center at the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) Panelists • Keith J. Watson – Vice President of Core Research and Development at Dow Chemical Company • Larry Gibbs – Associate Vice Provost for Environmental Health and Safety at Stanford University • Craig Merlic – Associate Professor of Chemistry and Executive Director for the UCLA Center for Laboratory Safety • Lori Seiler – Associate Director for Global R&D EHS at Dow Chemical Company Register for the webinar...

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Georgia student burned in “rainbow demo” alcohol fire to receive $1.5 million
May11

Georgia student burned in “rainbow demo” alcohol fire to receive $1.5 million

A woman who was burned in a 2013 fire started when a high school teacher added methanol to an already-burning rainbow flame test demonstration will receive $1.5 million as part of a legal settlement, says the Daily Report, a news organization that covers Georgia courts and law. From the story: According to the plaintiff’s lawyers and the complaint in the case, Chapel Hill [High School] was hosting an Advanced Placement open house on the evening of Oct. 3, 2013. As part of the event, [student Olivia Johnson] and an instructor, Ashley Mathieson, were conducting a chemistry experiment in the school hallway that involved identifying various chemicals by the color of the flame they emit when burned. As part of the experiment, substances were placed in a crucible or petri dish and Mathieson poured liquid methanol over them from a 4-liter jug, which Johnson would then light. The complaint said Johnson was holding a lighter to the dish when Mathieson became engaged in an “animated conversation” with another student and her mother, turning her back to Johnson, the complaint said. Mathieson abruptly turned and poured more methanol on the open flame, causing a “flash fire that engulfed [Johnson] in a ball of flames.” … A series of “after” [photos of Johnson] shows widespread scarring on her hands, arms, chest, back and neck. … [Attorney Joseph Neal Jr. said that] school systems are protected from suit by sovereign immunity, while school employees enjoy the protection of official immunity. Only if such an employee can be shown to have negligently performed or failed to perform a ministerial duty—one which is mandated by rule or law—is there exposure to liability. That threshold, said Neal, makes it virtually impossible to sue a teacher or principal. But he said a conversation with a laboratory safety expert who specializes in school fires alerted him to the National Fire Protection Association safety standards—standards that had been incorporated into Georgia’s fire safety code and adopted by Douglas County ordinance. “That means they’re law; they’re mandatory,” Neal said. In September, the lawyers, along with ChancoSchiffer partner Douglas Chanco, filed a suit in Douglas County Superior Court on Johnson’s behalf, naming Mathieson and Chapel Hill Principal Sean Kelly as defendants. The suit said the defendants had violated several “ministerial, mandatory, and non-discretionary Douglas County and state of Georgia fire codes, laws and regulations” by conducting the rainbow experiment in a school hallway not separated from the building by a fire barrier, improperly storing and handling the methanol, failing to safeguard against the exposure of hazardous materials and fumes to flame and ignoring a red-lettered sign on the chemical cabinet where...

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Who pays when an undergraduate is injured in a lab?
May10

Who pays when an undergraduate is injured in a lab?

When an undergraduate researcher accidentally synthesized a diazonium salt at Texas Tech University in March and got himself an an ambulance trip to the local hospital, the incident raised a new issue for the school, wrote chemistry professor Dominick Casadonte to the ACS Division of Chemical Health & Safety e-mail list: The student was wearing his PPE, everything was done with safety in mind. He suffered only superficial lacerations on his hands. The biggest expense for him was the ambulance ride to the emergency room and being treated (no stitches were needed; I think he was given neosporin and sent home after a 2 hour wait). When he contacted his insurance company, they wanted to know if they were the ones who should have to pay for the ambulance ride, etc. He asked the professor overseeing him (the student was doing undergraduate research for course credit, and according to legal, does not fall under workman’s compensation). Texas Tech is a “self-insured” institution. The department has been instructed not to pay, as it would be an admission of liability, and could open the doors for payouts for any minor freshman chemistry lab accident, for example. The university legal would perhaps need to deal with the person’s insurance company or a lawyer, should the student sue. My question to all of you: We are researching how other universities deal with the issue of who pays for medical care for minor accidents. What do your universities do? How do you deal with the financial aspects of accidents? Are your institutions insured? If so, for liability only? Liability and damages to infrastructure? I’ve said this before about workman’s compensation for graduate students and postdocs, but now I’ll apply it to undergraduates as well: Find out what your university’s policies are and what you will have to pay for personally if you’re injured. If expenses are going to come out of your health insurance, assuming that your insurance company doesn’t protest, then what are your deductible and/or copays for ambulances or emergency room visits? Schools have a range of policies, as the responses to Casadonte’s question...

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Inadvertent synthesis of triacetone triperoxide (TATP)
May03

Inadvertent synthesis of triacetone triperoxide (TATP)

Via C&EN’s letters to the editor this week, some 1970s-era safety letters regarding inadvertent synthesis of triacetone triperoxide (TATP): Violent explosion (Feb. 21, 1977, page 5): While making 6-amino-penicillanic acid S-oxide, there was an explosion in our laboratory, at which time one man was injured. The cause of the accident has been found to be trimeric acetone peroxide. For the experiment in question we used 1 mole of 6-APA. It was oxidized according to the instructions published in “Synthesis” 1976, page 264, and precipitated as p-toluene sulfonate in the presence of acetone. 130 grams (0.32 mole) of the product was treated with triethylamine in isopropanol according to the instructions. The precipitate was filtered with suction on a glass sinter, washed with acetone, and air was allowed to flow through the filter cake. When the technician who was performing the experiment took the sinter in his hand and touched the precipitate with a steel spatula, it exploded violently. The technician received severe burns and splinter wounds in his eyes, hands, and body. Two windows were broken and there were holes in the glass of a fume cupboard at 3 m distance. The surface of the work table was spoiled. The explosive substance was found to be trimeric acetone peroxide. It was isolated from the mother liquor, from which it crystallized as large crystals. The melting point of the substance was 97° C. In literature [“Encyclopedia of Explosives and Related Items,” Vol. 1, Basil T. Fedoroff, Picatinny Arsenal, Dover, N.J. (1960)] the melting range is given at 94 to 98.5° C. The infrared spectrum was identified with the aid of a computer, and it was identical with the spectrum in the Sadtler catalog. On the basis of the NMR spectrum it was established to contain only one type of protons, τ = 8.5. The explosion of trimeric acetone peroxide was probably caused by the combined effect of static energy and friction. The static energy accumulated in man can be 30 mJ. We performed different sensitivity tests with the isolated substance. It exploded moist with an 11.5-mJ electric spark. In impact sensitivity tests, it ignited repeatedly with a weight of 2 kg from 10 cm’s height. In friction sensitivity tests, the sample ignited with a weight of 0.5 kg. The ignition sensitivity increased when the substance was dried. Trimeric acetone peroxide was the only explosive compound that we were able to isolate from the mother liquor that was spared. Thus we have every reason to believe that just this substance caused the accident. According to literature, acetone peroxide is easily produced from acetone and hydrogen peroxide catalyzed by an acid. A. Noponen...

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