Posts Tagged → Safety
Tweet of the Week:
OH: OMG, she LOVES biology. When she gets drunk, that's all she talks about.
— LeighKrietschBoerner (@LeighJKBoerner) September 20, 2013
To the network:
Cleantech Chemistry: Cool Planet Wraps Up $60 Million Funding Round
Fine Line: ChemOutsourcing: Day Two and ChemOutsourcing: Day One
Newscripts: XPRIZE Competition Poses Ocean Acidity Challenge and Amusing News Aliquots and From Unknown Bacteria To Biotechnology Breakthrough
The Safety Zone: Nanotechnology: Small science can come with big safety risks
The Watch Glass: Tiny Solder and Gas Masks for Three Year Olds and Women in Cleveland’s Chemistry Labs during WWII and The Orion Nebula and Detector Dogs for Forensic Chemistry
Tweet of the week:
“In discrepancy is discovery” – Lesson learnt from scientific research.
— Curious Wavefunction (@curiouswavefn) May 20, 2013
To the network:
Artful Science: Was antiquity really so tacky?
Cleantech Chemistry: Never Mind All That: Solar on the upswing
The Safety Zone: Dow launches Lab Safety Academy website
The Watch Glass: Teflon: Newcomer to heat exchange and What’s That Stuff? Chicken Eggs and Texas City: Portrait of a Chemical Town and C&EN Talks With Mae Jemison and Chemist tried in Chicago riot case
CENtral Science was a cornucopia of Nobel commentary this week:
Just Another Electron Pusher: Awarding nontraditional chemistry
Terra Sigillata: HHMI and Duke Celebrate the Lefkowitz Chemistry Nobel, Lefkowitz and Kobilka win 2012 Chemistry Nobel for GPCRs, Gurdon and Yamanaka share Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 2012, and Lefkowitz Nobel: “There’s a lot of love here.” (video goodness!)
Plus, an update and some perspective on the Sheri Sangji case:
And the usuals:
Newscripts: Amusing News Aliquots
The Safety Zone: Friday chemical safety round-up
The ACS mole mascot put in an appearance at last weekend’s National Cherry Blossom Festival Parade in Washington, D.C.
Doug Dollemore, a senior science writer in the ACS Office of Public Affairs, manned the mole suit. Would-be moles need to be 5’7″ to 5’11″ to fit in the suit, which has a fan in its head to keep the “mole”nteer cool.
The mole was part of the USA Science & Engineering Festival delegation, which also included the Math Tree, Thomas Edison, Benjamin Franklin, a robotics club from Rockville, and a large mechanical spider from Vancouver, B.C.
The six columns of letters in this week’s print edition of C&EN and several more columns in this week’s edition of C&EN Online all pertain to the death of Sheharbano (Sheri) Sangji, a 23-year-old research assistant in a chemistry laboratory at the University of California, Los Angeles, and C&EN’s coverage of the accident that led to her death.
Associate Editor Jyllian Kemsley has written extensively about the accident, culminating in a major investigative article that appeared in the Aug. 3 issue (page 29). To recap, on Dec. 29, 2008, Sangji was scaling up a reaction she had carried out at least once before to produce 4-hydroxy-4-vinyldecane from either 4-undecanone or 4-decanone. The first step of the reaction was to generate vinyllithium by reacting vinylbromide with tert-butyllithium, a pyrophoric chemical.
The experiment went terribly wrong when the tert-butyllithium spilled and ignited a spilled flask of hexane. Sangji suffered extensive burns on her upper body. She died on Jan. 16.
The letters C&EN has received on the accident focus on several themes. Continue reading →
C&EN has put out a lot of information this week on the UCLA lab fire that led to the death of Sheharbano (Sheri) Sangji, with the magazine story and accompanying investigation reports, as well as the posts here on the blog. I have a few more thoughts before we wrap up.
First, it’s important to keep in mind that the only reason C&EN was able to get as much information as it did about what happened to Sangji was because the incident occurred at a public university that is subject to public records laws. Most of the reports belonged to UCLA’s fire marshals, fire department, police department, and environmental health & safety office. The notes and reports of people in similar positions at a private school would be unattainable if the school chose not to release them.
Cal/OSHA collected complementary information, but the agency would not have been involved had Sangji been a student. Undergraduate and graduate students, and sometimes even postdocs, are typically not considered to be university employees, even if they’re paid a stipend. Cal/OSHA and similar agencies only have jurisdiction over employees. (On a separate but related note, students also may not be eligible for worker’s compensation.)
In my story Learning from UCLA, about the laboratory fire that led to the death of Sheharbano (Sheri) Sangji, one of the things that Rick Danheiser, a chemistry professor and chair of his department’s safety committee at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, cautions against is trying to improve laboratory safety in such a way that that you wind up with an adversarial relationship between researchers and environmental health & safety personnel.
Others have warned against being too punitive, since that just encourages people to hide what goes wrong. And as I’ve written before, if you don’t know what happened then you can’t learn from it.
So, if people want to improve the safety culture in their departments, what are positive ways to do it? Anna Davis, a researcher just wrapping up her first year at Dow Chemical, thinks that academic departments could benefit from collaborating with industrial labs on good safety practices. Rohm & Haas, which was recently acquired by Dow, was actually working on a project with the American Institute of Chemical Engineers to develop a safety certification program for academic departments, says Susan Dallessandro, a senior research & development director at Dow. Dow is evaluating how to develop that program within its existing outreach efforts, Dallessandro says.
James Kaufman, director of the Laboratory Safety Institute, suggests that colleges and universities get creative with rewards. “We have lots of ways of telling people they’re doing a bad job but relatively few ways of saying thank you for a good job,” he says. One idea that he has for larger institutions is to have EH&S officers nominate labs they inspect every month for a “safety excellence” award that includes a thank you from top-level administration. Once a year the school’s president could then invite those labs to a lunch at which he or she could personally thank them.
In a report issued last month (pdf), UCLA’s new laboratory safety committee also encouraged the university to develop a reward system to encourage safety compliance in labs. Does your school or workplace make a point of rewarding safe research practices? What positive ways would you suggest to promote lab safety?
Photo credit: Dow Chemical
One of the allegations that has been printed in other media accounts of the lab fire and its aftermath at the University of California, Los Angeles, is that members of Patrick Harran‘s lab tampered with the incident scene. Based on documents C&EN obtained through a California Public Records Act request, this seems to be what happened: