Protective suit failure lands Canadian lab worker in isolation
Nov10

Protective suit failure lands Canadian lab worker in isolation

An employee of Canada’s national animal health lab is in isolation for 21 days following possible exposure to the Ebola virus, news agencies report. The employee was working with pigs that had been invected with Ebola to test how the disease responds to treatment with immune response proteins, CBC reports. The employee was going through standard decontamination procedures before leaving the lab when he or she noticed a split in the seam of their protective suit. Ebola is spread by direct contact with bodily fluids. “There is no reason to believe the employee involved in Monday’s incident was in contact with the bodily fluids of the infected pig, according to Rebecca Gilman, spokeswoman for the Public Health Agency of Canada,” CNN reports. The incident illustrates why personal protective equipment should not be the only barrier between a lab worker–or the outside world–and possible harm. Multiple approaches are necessary so that a single weakness does not lead to illness or...

Read More
OSHA updates eye and face protection standards
Apr06

OSHA updates eye and face protection standards

Effective April 25, the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) has new requirements for eye and face protection. From the agency’s press release: The rule updates references in OSHA’s Eye and Face Protection Standards to recognize the ANSI/ISEA Z87.1-2010, Occupational and Educational Personal Eye and Face Protection Devices, while deleting the outdated 1986 edition of that same national consensus standard. OSHA is also retaining the 2003 and 1989 (R-1998) versions of the ANSI standard already referenced in its standard. In addition, the final rule updates the construction standard by deleting the 1968 version of the ANSI standard that was referenced and now includes the same three ANSI standards referenced above to ensure consistency among the agency’s standards. Here’s a piece from Occupational Health & Safety magazine about the development of the ANSI/ISEA Z87.1-2010...

Read More
Flame-resistant fabrics webinar
Mar08

Flame-resistant fabrics webinar

Although I normally avoid promoting particular products on the blog, this upcoming webinar sounds interesting: “Lab Coats for the 21st Century,” sponsored by Workrite. This webinar will discuss the rapidly growing trend of laboratories investing in flame-resistant (FR) lab coats. Attendees will learn about the various FR fabrics available today and the reasons why Nomex® IIIA fabric is becoming the fabric of choice. And finally, the webinar will reveal an innovative new lab coat fabric that offers FR plus chemical splash protection—the first fabric of its kind. Register here if you’d like to...

Read More
Lesson learned: Eye protection
Jun04

Lesson learned: Eye protection

From the University of California, Berkeley, a lesson learned about wearing eye protection: A graduate student researcher was working at a laboratory bench synthesizing approximately one gram of diazonium perchlorate crystals. The student was transferring synthesized perchlorate using a metal spatula when the material exploded, sending porcelain fragments into his face. The fragments shattered the lenses of his eyeglasses and lacerated his left cornea. A researcher in an adjacent room assisted the student to the eyewash and called campus police. The student was taken to the hospital where he underwent surgery on his eye, and treatment for several facial lacerations. He was released from the hospital that same evening. Read the report for more details. (h/t Chemjobber, who also posted about this and received a rather disheartening comment from a UC Berkeley graduate...

Read More
Safely experimenting with actinides
Jun02

Safely experimenting with actinides

A few weeks ago, I wrote a C&EN Science Concentrate about a new californium complex with covalent bonds to its ligands rather than the ionic interactions traditionally expected for actinides. The work was led by Thomas E. Albrecht-Schmitt, a chemistry professor at Florida State University. His lab at FSU works with thorium, protactinium, uranium, neptunium, plutonium, americium, curium, californium, and—soon, for the first time–berkelium. His lab works with those elements safely by investing in protective equipment and meticulously planning experiments. Most of the actinides in Albrecht-Schmitt’s lab only present a concern if people inhale or ingest them, he says. It’s when they get to americium that they have to start thinking about radiation exposure. For americium, the concern is gamma emissions; for curium it’s spontaneous fission to release a neutron. And for californium, the only isotope available in experimental quantity is 249Cf, which releases high-energy gamma radiation. “To shield to background levels we need 2 inches of lead,” Albrecht-Schmitt says. Safety in his lab starts with shoes. “The most common way in which radioactive material leaves a lab is when someone unknowingly steps in a contaminated area and walks out,” Albrecht-Schmitt says. National labs tackle the problem by using foot covers, but his group members have dedicated lab shoes that they change into when they walk in and leave behind when they walk out. His lab also has glove boxes dedicated to transuranium chemistry. Unlike standard glove boxes, which run at positive pressure to protect the box contents from air, Albrecht-Schmitt’s has some that under negative pressure—sucking air in to prevent the spread of particulate matter. “The exhaust from the pumps and boxes is routed through a very sophisticated filter system,” Albrecht-Schmitt says. no images were found When doing lab work, Albrecht-Schmitt and his group members wear double gloves. They also use masking tape to tape the inner glove to their lab coats. That way they never have exposed skin, and if someone thinks their hands have been contaminated, they can remove the outer glove and still be protected. Working in a glove box adds a third layer to the hands. The lab has several radiation counters, including general ones to detect any kind of radiation and specific ones to check for alpha, beta, and gamma emissions. There’s also a special hand and foot monitor that people step on for a scan before leaving the lab. Lab coats get checked and replaced as needed. “Students who do low-level work may replace theirs once a year, but routine work with short-lived isotopes may mean replacing them 3-4 times a year,” Albrecht-Schmitt says. Used coats go into radioactive waste. And then...

Read More
Lab coat versus concentrated acid
May19

Lab coat versus concentrated acid

Want a visual for why you should wear a lab coat? Check out Pictures from an Organic Chemistry Laboratory, where Kristof has a photo from a nitration that went awry, spilling concentrated sulfuric and nitric acid “everywhere.” It might even be an argument for adding an apron over a lab coat in some...

Read More