Culture of compliance versus culture of safety
Feb04

Culture of compliance versus culture of safety

Quote fom a New York Times story about the collapse of a construction waste dump in China that killed at least 69 people. How many U.S. workplaces does it also describe? “It’s quite often that the goal is to get approval, rather than be truly in compliance with the spirit, whether it’s the environmental impact assessment or safety,” said Dali L. Yang, a professor at the University of Chicago who has studied China’s efforts to strengthen safety regulation. “They think, ‘I can get away with this, so why bother?’...

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Safety training at ACS meetings in San Diego and Philadelphia
Feb03

Safety training at ACS meetings in San Diego and Philadelphia

As it always does, the American Chemical Society Division of Chemical Health & Safety is offering workshops on the Friday and Saturday prior to this year’s national meetings in San Diego and Philadelphia. The courses include: Laboratory Waste Management Lab Safety How to be a More Effective Chemical Hygiene Officer Reactive Chemical Management for Laboratories & Pilot Plants Meeting Chemical Safety Expectations in Instructional Laboratories Cannabis Extraction and Analysis If you register early, the fees are $300 for CHAS members, $350 for non-CHAS members, and $99 for K-12 science teachers who are members of the American Association of Chemistry Teachers. (Why might a teacher need safety training? Read this.) Click here for more information on the workshops and to...

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CSB approves final report on West Fertilizer explosion
Feb02

CSB approves final report on West Fertilizer explosion

The U.S. Chemical Safety & Hazard Investigation Board (CSB) on Jan. 28 approved its final report on the 2013 ammonium nitrate fertilizer explosion in West, Texas, that killed fifteen people and injured hundreds of others. CSB found that key factors that led to the severity of the accident were: Poor hazard awareness Proximity of the facility to nearby homes and businesses Inadequate emergency planning Limited regulatory oversight Here’s CSB’s video about the incident: CSB issued a total of 19 recommendations relating to the explosion, to the Environmental Protection Agency, Occupational Safety & Health Administration, International Code Council (responsible for the International Fire Code), Federal Emergency Management Agency, Texas Commission on Fire Protection, State Firefighters’ and Fire Marshals’ Association of Texas, Texas A&M Engineering Extension Services, Texas Department of Insurance, West Volunteer Fire Department, and El Dorado Chemical...

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Comparing safety culture in industry to academia
Jan21

Comparing safety culture in industry to academia

Chemjobber had a guest post last week by Alex Goldberg, who started working as a pharmaceutical process chemist six months ago. He says, in part: And we have regular meetings about safety: we discuss near-misses and incidents and accidents (and we learn about the differences between them in safety training) that occurred in the previous month. And absolutely everyone wears his or her labcoat and safety glasses. Reflecting back on my academic training, I think about what universities can do to make safety an ongoing conversation, not just an onboarding exercise or an annual seminar. If we take long-hours and limited resources as a given in academic Chemistry departments — a topic which merits another discussion entirely — what can be done to build a culture of safety around those constraints? What does your lab and department do to accomplish this goal? Examples,...

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Chinese university lab safety–not that different from the U.S.?
Jan20

Chinese university lab safety–not that different from the U.S.?

From Chemistry World, a look at the safety culture of Chinese university labs following the death of postdoctoral researcher Xiangjian Meng from a hydrogen explosion: The Tsinghua accident is not an isolated incident. On 5 April 2015, a gas explosion killed one graduate student and injured four others in a chemistry lab at the China University of Mining and Technology located in the eastern Chinese city of Xuzhou. On 22 September 2015, a Peking University chemistry building caught fire after a hydrogen tank leaked. The fire did not result in any injuries. A fire that broke out at a lab at the Beijing University of Chemical Technology last Monday was blamed on ageing equipment. I found it interesting that people interviewed for the Chemistry World story said that lab safety culture is better elsewhere–but several of the examples cited as problems in China can certainly be said about many U.S. labs as well: The fact that Meng was working alone points to a poor safety culture at the lab. There should be at least two people working in a lab in case of an accident, Luo tells Chemistry World. [Note: Chemistry World does not cite a source for Meng working alone, and I have not heard that from the university] … Yin says that awareness of lab safety and training is very weak among Chinese researchers. She notes that researchers are sometimes reluctant to wear gloves and safety glasses to allow them to work without hindrance. … Wang Xiaojun, a professor of environmental chemistry at Guangzhou-based South China University of Technology, says that the lack of funding for lab infrastructure has hampered some lab heads’ efforts to make their workplaces safer. Researchers are left sometimes having to use their own funding to install safety equipment. This can leave some lab heads having to choose between safety and their own research. … But Luo says, besides research grants, most universities in China were allotted flexible budgets for infrastructure. ‘The problem is lab safety has never been prioritised.’ … One day before the Tsinghua accident, the education ministry urged universities and schools to carry out safety inspections. After the accident, the ministry launched a nationwide lab safety examination. But Luo says that campaign-style safety examinations do no good for lab safety. ‘The most likely action during nationwide [safety] inspections is to ensure the reliability of instruments, without considering the dynamic and flexible demands of research,’ Luo says. He suggests integrating safety training with experimental demands and lab safety management....

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