We have a couple of letters regarding academic lab safety in this week’s issue of C&EN. From one:
I am disappointed to learn from the article “Academic Lab Safety under Exam” that most of the conventional industrial laboratory concepts and practices of decades ago have yet to be implemented in colleges and graduate schools in 2011 (C&EN, Oct. 24, page 25). Maybe I’m prejudiced because I come from a history of dangerous research, went through years of “training” with high-pressure reactions, and ended up teaching industrial safety to college faculty and students (as well as industrial and municipal investigators).
And the other:
Most of the people in [academic] labs are relative rookies. … By contrast, an industrial lab will frequently have people with 10, 15, or 20 years’ experience in the lab. You cannot teach years of experience. So it’s not surprising that mistakes occur in a lab full of people where the most senior person may only have four or five years of experience. In some rare cases, a professor sending students off to do experiments with life-threatening reagents or procedures may tend toward negligence. The culture of having labs populated by inexperienced people has to change or more people will be hurt or killed.
Go read them in full. We now have commenting available for online stories, so feel free to add your thoughts.