Boost your lab ergonomics IQ
Mar31

Boost your lab ergonomics IQ

Contributed by Dow Lab Safety Academy When people talk about ergonomic issues, they often refer to things like carpal tunnel syndrome from sitting at a desk and typing. But there are also ergonomic risks associated with working in a laboratory. If you know what they are, you can take steps to minimize stress on your body and avoid injuries. Here are four ways to improve your lab ergonomics. 1. Start with proper attire. Shoes matter, especially in a lab where hazardous materials could spill. Opt for something with a cushioned sole, closed toe, closed heel, and impervious material. Also, be sure to remove loose-fitting clothing that could interfere with your experiments 2. Pay attention to posture. Since many lab stools don’t have backs, it can be challenging to keep your back straight. But it’s important to do so, as poor posture can lead to fatigue and injury. When seated on a stool, be sure your feet are flat on the floor by adjusting your seat height to the proper level. 3. Reduce back strain when standing. Fatigue can come into play when you have to stand for long periods of time. Lab mats are an important piece of ergonomic protective equipment that can help relieve strain on the feet, legs, and back. Use one when you’ll be standing at a sink, lab, or hood for prolonged periods. 4. Embrace the mini break. When your muscles begin to get sore, it’s your body’s way of telling you to rest. Plan stretch breaks into your day after 20 minutes at any task or any time you are doing a repetitive task. Quick mini breaks or changing tasks can have a big effect. At the first sign of discomfort, contact your local health official to address the issue. Fighting through the discomfort will lead to pain and could potentially lead to an ergonomic injury. For more on this topic, watch the Laboratory Ergonomics video in the Orientation & Training module at the Dow Lab Safety Academy. The Dow Lab Safety Academy is a free digital learning environment that seeks to enhance awareness of safety practices in research laboratories. Disclaimer: See Dow’s Terms of...

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How McKinsey makes training mandatory
Jan13

How McKinsey makes training mandatory

From a New York Times profile of McKinsey & Co. CEO Dominic Barton and his efforts to change the company’s rules and culture regarding personal investment after insider trading scandals: At McKinsey’s London office last fall, a recently hired associate sat at a computer for an orientation session. The associate worked at McKinsey as a business analyst several years earlier and then left the firm for a nongovernmental organization. During her first stint, she simply signed a form confirming that she understood McKinsey’s investing rules. This time, though, she had to walk through a 45-minute interactive program. When McKinsey first introduced this tutorial, six employees refused to complete it, saying it was a sign that the firm was turning into a “nanny state.” They left the firm. To push recalcitrant employees to complete the test, McKinsey cuts off their email access until they comply. The story says that all McKinsey consultants–not just new ones–have to complete tutorials such as the one described and senior partners in particular weren’t to too happy about it. Barton...

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UC expands its lab safety program
Aug29

UC expands its lab safety program

In this week’s issue of C&EN, I have a story on how the University of California is implementing and expanding upon the lab safety settlement agreement that UC made with the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office last summer. In short, UC is taking the legal mandates for chemistry and biochemistry departments and expanding them to all research and teaching laboratories as well as to technical areas such as store and stock rooms. Go read the story for details. Included with the story is a list of links to things such as UC’s new online “Laboratory Safety Fundamentals” training program, UCLA’s personal protective equipment (PPE) inspection checklist, and the system’s new policies on training, PPE, and minors in labs. As part of reporting on the story, I went through the safety fundamentals training and scored 19/20 on the test at the end. If readers are inclined to do the same, be warned that it will take about three hours, at least if you click through the various bits to get additional information. UC also purchased personal protective equipment for researchers, including 115,000 lab coats. Part of that purchase involved special-ordering flame-resistant, NFPA 2112-rated lab coats from Workrite in small sizes tailored for women. I don’t see them available now on the company’s website, but clearly it at least has patterns. I don’t know whether Workrite is willing to make more, but it’s probably worth a call if you’re looking for...

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Lab safety videos on lab coats, eye protection, and eye washing
Aug14

Lab safety videos on lab coats, eye protection, and eye washing

Yes, I know, my last post was just videos, too. But people are doing some good ones! Behold a typically great video from the University of California, San Diego, on personal protective equipment: Eye and face protection and lab coats. From UC Berkeley, what happens when you neglect eye protection (at the end, though, even if his eyes are fine, I think that the acid on his head requires a...

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Lessons learned videos: Formic acid splash and trichloroethylene spill
Aug08

Lessons learned videos: Formic acid splash and trichloroethylene spill

Kudos to Cornell University for turning some incidents into lessons learned videos: Formic acid splash   Trichloroethylene spill in a...

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New lab safety video on personal protective equipment
Jun24

New lab safety video on personal protective equipment

Courtesy of University of California, San Diego, chemistry lecturer Haim Weizman, here is a new video on personal protective equipment–mostly lab coats, with a nod to eye protection. So far, two complaints have cropped up on the Division of Chemical Health & Safety e-mail list about the video. One is that it shows safety glasses rather than splash goggles. I agree that goggles would be a better choice, especially when part of the video shows a splash. Safety glasses are really just for impact protection. The other complaint concerned “the low-cut tank top work by the lab worker.” I agree with this to some degree, because the lab coat doesn’t cover the top of the worker’s chest, either. On the other hand, how much protection would a crew-neck t-shirt really provide? And how much clothing policing is reasonable? UCSD started requiring lab coats in its undergraduate labs a few years ago precisely because it was difficult to enforce a dress code. “Our explanation of what was appropriate attire was a huge paragraph and had to be constantly changed” as fashions evolved, teaching labs safety coordinator Sheila Kennedy told me in 2010. If chest protection is such a concern that you might want people to take a ruler to their collarbones, then perhaps the answer lies in lab coat design rather than dress...

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