Category → Safety resources
This week’s issue of C&EN includes a story by Celia Arnaud about proposed changes to the ACS Guidelines for Bachelor’s Degree Programs, which are developed by the Committee on Professional Training. The issue also has a comment by committee leaders Anne B. McCoy of Ohio State University and Ron W. Darbeau of Louisiana’s McNeese State University.
Included in the changes are revisions to the safety requirements. Former committee leaders told me a few years ago that the last guidelines revision, completed in 2008, had more explicitly addressed safety than earlier versions, so the newly-proposed revisions take the criteria a step further.
Here’s what the requirements say now in the safety section:
7.3 Laboratory Safety Skills.
Approved programs should promote a safety-conscious culture in which students understand the concepts of safe laboratory practices and how to apply them. Programs should train students in the aspects of modern chemical safety appropriate to their educational level and scientific needs. A high degree of safety awareness should begin during the first laboratory course, and both classroom and laboratory discussions must stress safe practices. Students should understand responsible disposal techniques, understand and comply with safety regulations, understand and use material safety data sheets (MSDS), recognize and minimize potential chemical and physical hazards in the laboratory, and know how to handle laboratory emergencies effectively.
And here’s what’s proposed (overall, there’s a shift from “shoulds” to “musts”):
Section 7.3 Laboratory Safety Skills (p. 14-15)
Programs must train students in the aspects of modern chemical safety appropriate to their educational level and scientific needs. Approved programs must promote a safety-conscious culture in which students understand the concepts of safe laboratory practices and apply them.
- Programs must train students in the aspects of modern chemical safety appropriate to their educational and scientific needs.
- The promotion of safety awareness and skills must begin during the first laboratory experience and be incorporated into each lab experience thereafter. Classroom and laboratory discussions must stress safe practices. Students should be actively engaged in the evaluation and assessment of safety risks associated with laboratory experiences.
- Safety understanding and skills should build throughout the curriculum and be assessed.
- Students should
- understand responsible disposal techniques
- understand and comply with safety regulations
- understand and use material safety data sheets (MSDS)
- recognize and minimize potential chemical and physical hazards in the laboratory and know how to effectively handle laboratory emergencies.
- Students must undergo general safety training as well as lab-specific training before beginning undergraduate research.
- Approved programs must have an active, departmental safety committee.
What say you, readers? Are the proposed changes necessary or sufficient? What would you add or subtract?
From McCoy and Darbeau’s piece this week: “Please send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org by Aug. 1 so they can be discussed at the next CPT meeting. The committee will also hold an extended open meeting on Sept. 8 at the ACS national meeting in Indianapolis that will focus on the guidelines revision. Details will be posted on the CPT website. CPT plans to publish the new guidelines in 2014.”
Several weeks ago, a request hit my inbox: Did I know of a library of lab safety videos? I didn’t. But it seemed like one would be a useful resource, so Russ and I set about putting one together. It’s just a spreadsheet, but hopefully it’ll be useful to some in the chemistry community:
A few notes:
- Video descriptions are courtesy of Russ (thanks, Russ!)
- We make no guarantees about quality
- There are undoubtedly videos that we missed. If you know of one we should include, feel free to post it in the comments or e-mail me
- Likewise, if you or someone you know produces a new video, let us know to add it!
The spreadsheet is freely available to anyone who would like to use it, for whatever purpose. That includes making a prettier, more accessible version. Legendary chemistry librarian Dana Roth of Caltech, for example, has started a Safety Videos “LibGuide.”
I know, the Safety Zone has been very quiet of late. I was busy working on a cover story about the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, plus a companion piece on oil dispersants. We’ll resume regular programming with a round up tomorrow.
Yesterday at the Council for Chemical Research meeting, Dow unveiled a publicly-accessible website with a comprehensive set of lab safety training videos plus additional resources. The website is at safety.dow.com. More details on the development of the site are in my C&EN story on the project. One tidbit that didn’t make it into the news story: While the video hosts are professional actors, the supporting roles are played by Dow scientists.
Researchers developed lab safety demonstrations, competed for prizes, and attended a safety equipment expo as part of Stony Brook University chemistry department’s Research Day in January.
Research Day is an annual department tradition going back at least a decade, says department chair Nicole S. Sampson. Students prepare posters about their research, the department hosts a lunch, and one of the faculty members gives a keynote lecture. “Undergrads and other faculty wander through and find out what’s going on in the chemistry department,” Sampson says.
Last year, it was scheduled in early November, the week after Superstorm Sandy hit the East Coast. Although the university suffered minimal damage from the storm, the school cancelled classes for several days and Research Day was postponed until January.
Meanwhile, Sampson says, she had already been pondering how to elevate people’s safety consciousness. As everyone returned to work after the storm, she organized a joint meeting with the Research Day and safety committees, and Research Day took on a new safety component. “We got really excited about it, says Jonathan G. Rudick, a chemistry professor and one of the Research Day organizers. “It was a great way to get something new into a well-trod tradition.” he says.
Adds Sampson, “You can only tell people so many times to be safe. We decided that we had to find another way to say that it’s important to the university and to get people to stop and think about what they do every day.”
The plan the department came up with was to have students develop safety demonstrations related to their research. Members of the department would then vote for their favorite demos, and the winners would receive a prize. Prior to the event, lab safety specialist Kim Gates reviewed demonstration ideas and written protocols to make sure students followed best practices, then visited the labs to see the demos in person and ensure the labs could accommodate visitors.
One of the demonstrations that won an award was a presentation on a waste handling system for radioactive 32P work. Liquid waste gets filtered to remove 32P, which gets concentrated to reduce the waste volume. “It’s a very nice set-up,” Sampson says.
The other award-winning demo showcased permeability of different types of gloves to various solvents. The group dyed the solvents so observers could see them migrating through glove material to paper on the other side.
Additional demos included using solvent purification push stills, ultracentrifuges, and glove bags; moving compressed gas cylinders; handling ethidium bromide; transferring butyllithium reagents; quenching metal hydride reagents; and “find-the-hazard” on a benchtop. One of Rudick’s favorites was hands-on instruction for how to remove gloves, using ketchup as a contaminant. The department also gave prizes for the two cleanest labs.
Additionally, Gates arranged for an expo with several vendors to exhibit safety equipment and perform a few additional demos. She had her own table to display lab photos she’d taken over a few years. Students had to identify 10 incorrect things in the photos, and their answers went into a raffle for another prize.
Overall, department members were very enthusiastic about the safety demos and the day went better than expected, Sampson and Rudick say. But between the usual Research Day events and the safety demonstrations, they agree that they had too much happening—neither Sampson nor Rudick actually made it to see everything. In the future, the department will hold separate annual research and safety events. For the safety day, Sampson and Rudick also want to pare down the number of demonstrations so there’s time to see everything. Even if individual researchers don’t do the chemistry in question, Sampson sees value in exposing them to it. “The laser jocks who come in to hang out with the people running ethidium bromide gels need to know what’s going on in that lab,” she says.
A note from Jyllian: I get a lot of questions from people asking how to be positive and proactive about safety rather than punitive and reactive. If your group or department is doing something that others could find useful, please get in touch!
From Novasep in Germany and Organic Process Research and Development comes word that Togni’s reagent II, used for trifluoromethylations, is explosive. Also highly hazardous is an intermediate in the reagent’s synthesis and probably Togni’s reagent I.
- Work with the compounds behind a safety shield and use small amounts
- Avoid open flames and sparking
- Don’t grind the materials with “brute force” (I think I’d probably err on the side of not grinding at all)
- Use “soft and polished tools” for manipulations
- Avoid caking and disperse lumps early
- Impurities may influence the thermal and mechanical sensitivity of the material
The Sigma-Aldrich material safety data sheet for Togni’s reagent II, 1-(trifluoromethyl-1,2-benziodoxol-3(1H)-one, mixed with diatomaceous earth classifies the product only as an irritant and toxic. Togni’s reagent I, 3,3-dimethyl-1-trifluoromethyl-1,2-benziodoxole, is flagged as an irritant.
Last fall, C&EN ran a couple of letters that focused on the role of the syringe in the #SheriSangji case. Both called for a way to prevent a syringe plunger from coming out of the barrel. I’ve seen mention of such devices in comments around the web in the last few years, so I thought I’d take a look at what I could find:
1. The Hamilton Chaney adapter, “a device that assures repetitive and identical syringe plunger location.” The maximum volume syringe appears to be about 500 microliters, and it’s not clear how much force these adapters would resist.
2. Perfektum syringes go up to 100 mL and have a little metal clip on the end that puts pressure on the barrel. A kind source had one in their lab and took the photos to the right for me. The clips look like they wouldn’t resist much force.
3. Valco VICI precision syringes, which have a “positive rear flange plunger stop – prevents plunger from blowing out of barrel at elevated pressure.” They’re designed for chromatography. I have no idea how the plunger stop works. Readers?
4. As one of the letter-writers noted, Becton Dickinson has patents issued in the mid-90s for syringes with “a backstop device to prevent inadvertent withdrawal of a stopper or plunger rod” and “a plunger brake.” These look promising but as far as I can tell neither is available on any syringe available for purchase.
5. For the do-it-yourself crowd, an option is to drill a hole into a plastic syringe barrel and put in a screw far enough to serve as a brake on the plunger. (This procedure, of course, comes with its own set of risks.)
To sum, I really see no readily available answer for the problem. Am I missing something?
Earlier this week, the American Chemical Society released a report on “Advancing Graduate Education in the Chemical Sciences.” ACS president and University of Wisconsin, Madison, chemistry professor Bassam Z. Shakhashiri commissioned the report, charging the commission with defining the purposes of graduate education in the chemical sciences and what steps should be taken to ensure that programs “address important societal issues as well as the needs and aspirations of graduate students.”
One of the five report conclusions was:
Academic chemical laboratories must adopt best safety practices. Such practices have led to a remarkably good record of safety in the chemical industry and should be leveraged.
The commission could easily have folded safety under another conclusion: ”Current educational opportunities for graduate students…do not provide sufficient preparation for their careers after graduate school.” Clearly the commission members felt strongly that laboratory safety needed to be called out as a separate point.
The report notes that “students’ lack of familiarity with best practices in laboratory safety … represents a significant gap, regardless of the type of employment the student ultimately pursues,” whether students are looking at academic, industrial, or government positions. The report emphasizes that institutions should develop a culture of working safely rather than just following rules and regulations. In that respect, it jumps off from and references the ACS Safety Culture Task Force report Creating Safety Cultures in Academic Institutions released earlier this year. And the report recommends that ACS develop a comprehensive safety curriculum based on best practices.
The report addresses the finances of safety, too:
The costs of safety practices for research should be built into the indirect costs charged by universities; they should be adequate to provide what is needed (including supplies, equipment, skilled personnel, training, and more). The direct-cost budgets of research grants do not seem to provide the appropriate mechanism for funding safety measures. The top down approach to handling the costs of safety is imperative to make certain there is uniform implementation of safety practices and hardware across all chemical laboratories of a university and to eliminate conflicts of interests among individual PIs making financial decisions regarding safety implementation in their own laboratories.
The costs of safety practices outside research laboratories, most notably in teaching facilities, are inevitably an institutional responsibility. Suitable standards should govern them, and appropriate mechanisms should fund them.
Based on the University of California’s definition of indirect costs–”those that are better calculated on an institutional basis rather than costed-out by project (e.g. research administration and accounting, purchasing, library, space, maintenance)”–safety definitely should be part of overhead. But who pays for what in academic departments can be the subject of intense debate, so it’s nice to see the ACS commission take a clear stand. The commission included two chancellors and one dean, along with many professors and some industry representatives.
Last but not least, a few quotes from the report on the importance of lab safety in graduate education:
Progress would afford better protection to students and other workers at all academic levels and would better prepare students to meet the natural expectations of their future colleagues and employers.
[T]oday’s companies demand safety performance from their employees that far exceeds what students are accustomed to in academic settings. There are many safety skills that are easily taught, such as doing hazard analyses, but the core issue is that students must be “grown” to value safety in a manner that is “bone deep” and can drive the highest level of performance, known as interdependent behavior. This culture of safety is often a surprise to newly hired students. It should not be.
[T]here is a demonstrated, strong correlation between occupational safety and operating performance of factories.30 A great many industrial organizations have found safety to be powerfully coupled in a general way to productivity. They are not committed just because a safety culture reduces their exposure to liability, but in much greater degree because a bone-deep safety culture protects their people and because workers who consistently think carefully about what they are doing perform better.
30Veltri, A.; Pagell, M.; Behm, M.; Das, A. A Data-Based Evaluation of the Relationship between Occupational Safety and Operating Performance. Jour. SH&E Res. 2007, 4, feature 2.
Following up on a blog post last spring about a new lab safety partnership between Dow Chemical and the University of Minnesota, I’ve got a story in today’s issue of C&EN delving into the details of what Dow and its partner universities have done so far. Since the program started, Dow has expanded it to include Penn State University and the University of California, Santa Barbara, and each school is experimenting with different Dow-inspired ideas. Also, students, take note:
It’s not just the schools that have benefited from the interactions between Dow and the universities. Dow has changed one of its practices as well, Gupta says. Dow recruiters are now asking questions about safety in on-campus interviews, looking for people who have taken leadership positions or tried to emphasize safety in their own work.
Separately, did anyone attend the University of California’s webinar last week on “Creating Safety Cultures in Academic Institutions.” How was it? Did you get anything useful out of it? I was enmeshed in training and our annual Advisory Board and staff meetings for much of last week, so I had to miss it.
Last but not least, I hope that everyone on the U.S. Atlantic seaboard stays safe and dry during Sandy.