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Posts Tagged → Safety

This Week on CENtral Science: XPRIZE Science, Nanotech Safety, and more

Tweet of the Week:

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

This week on CENtral Science: Tacky ancients, Solar upswing, and more

Tweet of the week:

To the network:
Artful Science: Was antiquity really so tacky?

Cleantech Chemistry: Never Mind All That: Solar on the upswing

Newscripts: In Print: Toys Will Be Toys and Amusing News Aliquots

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

This Week on CENtral Science: #Nobels, #SheriSangji

CENtral Science was a cornucopia of Nobel commentary this week:

Just Another Electron Pusher: Awarding nontraditional chemistry

Newscripts: A Nobel In Chemistry, Through The Eyes Of “Families”

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:

The Safety Zone: Harran hearing in #SheriSangji case postponed and Chemjobber and Janet Stemwedel discuss #SheriSangji case and academic lab safety culture

And the usuals:

Newscripts: Amusing News Aliquots

The Safety Zone: Friday chemical safety round-up

ACS Mole Checks Out DC Cherry Blossom Parade

Like any good chemist, the mole always wears eye protection. Credit: Christine Schmidt

Credit: Christine Schmidt

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.

Learning From UCLA

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 →

Some Thoughts on Lab Incidents

Sangji was an avid soccer player and planned to start law school this fall.

Sangji was an avid soccer player and planned to start law school this fall.

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.)

Continue reading →

Promoting Safe Research Practices

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.


Davis dons goggles, gloves, and a flame-resistant lab coat to do experiments at Dow.

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?

Tomorrow on C&ENtral: Some Thoughts on Lab Incidents
Previously this week: Safety in Academic Labs; Evaluating Safety; Personal Protection from Fire; Tampering with Evidence?

Photo credit: Dow Chemical

Tampering with Evidence?

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:

Continue reading →