To reduce worker exposure to nanomaterials, follow workplace design recommendations
May10

To reduce worker exposure to nanomaterials, follow workplace design recommendations

Earlier this year, the U.S. National Institute of Occupational Safety & Health released new nanotechnology design recommendations to help reduce worker exposure to nanomaterials. “Workers in industries that use or make these uniquely engineered nanomaterials may inhale nanoparticles on a daily basis, posing a potential respiratory hazard,” NIOSH says in a press release. “Each workplace design solutions document provides key tips on the design, use, and maintenance of exposure controls for nanomaterial production, post processing, and use.” The documents prepared by NIOSH cover: handling and weighing of nanomaterials when scooping, pouring and dumping; harvesting nanomaterials and cleaning out reactors after materials are produced; processing of nanomaterials after production; working with nanomaterials of different forms, including dry powders or liquids. See more NIOSH resources on safe production and use of nanomaterials...

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Aging equipment, vulnerability, near misses, runaway reactions, and natural disasters in process safety newsletters
May09

Aging equipment, vulnerability, near misses, runaway reactions, and natural disasters in process safety newsletters

From AIChE’s “Process Safety Beacon” newsletters so far this year: Aging facilities and infrastructure – “Aging does not necessarily relate to how old a facility or piece of equipment might be. It is really about how well it has been operated and maintained.” Maintain a sense of vulnerability – Understand the hazards of your process and materials. Know what the worst-case incident is, and what safety systems and procedures are in place to prevent it. … Never think ‘it can’t happen here’ or ‘it can’t happen to me.’ It can!” Reporting and investigating near misses – “Following a major process safety incident, investigators often find that there were previous warnings and near misses. If these had been reported, investigated, and investigation findings implemented, the major incident could have been prevented.” Runaway reactions caused by contamination – “When you check safety information (safety data sheets, operating procedures, etc.) for materials in your plant, pay attention to possible hazardous reactions such as decomposition and polymerization as a result of contamination. Be aware of any specific contaminants of concern which are present in your plant.” Could your plant be impacted by a natural disaster? – “If you identify something which you think is important, and which is not covered by the existing plans, bring your concerns to the attention of your supervisors so the plans can be...

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Help build the Chemical Safety Library!
Oct04

Help build the Chemical Safety Library!

Scour your memory, lab notebooks, or the literature to find reaction safety information to enter into the Chemical Safety Library, a database tool that chemists may use to share information and avoid repeating dangerous events. To expand the library, the nonprofit that developed it is holding a two-week datathon from Oct. 17 to 31. The Pistoia Alliance launched the library earlier this year, and it now has more than 100 entries. “We are collecting community-contributed insights regarding reactions that have gone awry in the lab, with the aim of making this information freely and widely available to improve safety for all,” says Carmen Nitsche, Pistoia’s executive director for business development in North America. If you don’t already have a Chemical Safety Library account, please register in advance–library administrators screen user applications and reaction submissions to ensure the database remains free of spam. You can also register for a kickoff webinar on Oct. 18 to provide training, tips, and tricks. And be sure to alert your colleagues–students, postdocs, faculty, staff, EH&S personnel, collaborators–about the effort. Pistoia will reward top contributors with gift cards. C&EN plans to participate in the datathon by contributing information from our safety letters. Our challenge to you: Don’t let us be the top contributor! I hear all the time that people would like to have a database such as this, so now’s your chance to help create it. What happens during the datathon and a subsequent hackathon will help determine future development of the...

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Hazards of high oxygen concentration, mixing incompatible materials, and more in process safety newsletters
Aug01

Hazards of high oxygen concentration, mixing incompatible materials, and more in process safety newsletters

From AIChE’s “Process Safety Beacon” newsletters: Hazards of high oxygen concentration – “Autoignition temperature (AIT) and minimum ignition energy (MIE) are lowered markedly by higher oxygen content. Substances ignite more readily, burn faster, generate higher temperatures, and are difficult to extinguish.” Mixing incompatible materials in storage tanks – “Understand potential hazardous interactions among different materials that you unload into your plant’s storage tanks. The July 2016 “Beacon” describes the “Chemical Reactivity Worksheet,” a tool which your engineers and chemists can use to help understand chemical interactions.” …but the temperature was below the flash point! – “Because the vessel was operating below the flash point of the contents, the concentration of fuel vapor in the vessel atmosphere was too low for ignition. There should not have been an explosion hazard. But the fuel may not only be present as a vapor (remember dust explosions). The investigation determined that the vessel agitator created a fine mist of liquid droplets (Fig. 2). The tiny droplets were estimated to have an average size of about 1 micron. … Flammability testing demonstrated that the mist could be ignited at room temperature in air – and the mist would be ignited even more easily in a pure oxygen atmosphere.” Are you sure that vessel is empty? – “When returning equipment to service following maintenance, make sure that it is completely clean and does not contain anything that could be incompatible with process materials or operating conditions.” Corroded tanks! – “Holes in tanks can allow toxic or flammable vapors to escape into the surrounding environment. Corrosion can weaken tanks, pipes, or other equipment so they can fail under normal operating conditions.” Incident investigation of a steam pipe failure – “There is a reason for including a team of people with different expertise in an incident investigation… In this incident, the engineers and other experts did not recognize the machine tool marks on the failed pipe, and yet it was immediately obvious to the expert, experienced machinist. His knowledge completely changed the conclusions of the investigation, and was essential for understanding the cause of the...

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Creating a 21st century chemical research laboratory: Hazard assessments and fundamentals webinar
May09

Creating a 21st century chemical research laboratory: Hazard assessments and fundamentals webinar

Coming up this Thursday, May 11, an ACS webinar on “Creating a 21st Century Chemical Research Laboratory: Hazard Assessments and Fundamentals.” The description: Safety in the laboratory requires a full team effort to be successful. When everyone in the laboratory understands how to identify hazards, assess risk, and select the appropriate control measures to eliminate a hazard or minimize risk, accidents, injuries and near misses can be reduced. Join Ralph Stuart, an Environmental Safety Manager at Keene State College, and Kendra Leahy Denlinger of the University of Cincinnati as they discuss the new ACS resources that can support a safer and greener chemistry, and thus better science for the 21st century chemical research laboratory. What You Will Learn What are the newly created ACS technical and cultural resources to support laboratory safety How to incorporate the information provided by ACS’s Hazard Assessment in Research Laboratories in your specific research laboratory What is mechanochemistry and how to carry out chemical reactions without the presence of a solvent Green chemistry case study: how to avoid solvent-intensive process of column chromatography by using functionalized polymer resins which isolate products using simple gravity filtration Register...

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Hazardous reactions database launched
Mar15

Hazardous reactions database launched

From my story at C&EN: A nonprofit group today released a database tool chemists can use to share information about hazardous chemical reactions. Called the Chemical Safety Library, the tool was developed by a group that included representatives from pharmaceutical companies and academic institutions. “We feel this will be a valuable and unique set of data that is currently not available and should advance safety for all researchers,” says Carmen Nitsche, executive director for business development in North America at the Pistoia Alliance, which brings together companies, vendors, publishers, and academic groups to address research and development challenges in the life sciences industry. Go read my story for more. This seems like it could be a very valuable resource for chemists to learn from others’ accidents and near-misses, but only if people put in the effort to share their own...

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