Friday chemical safety round up

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LBNL’s “Safety is Elemental” logo

Chemical health and safety news from the past week:

  • Yes, Patrick Harran was due back in court today to wrap up the preliminary hearing in the #SheriSangji case. The word from Los Angeles is that the hearing is continued until March 21.
  • What five words collectively strike fear in the hearts of lab workers? On Twitter, check out #dangerous5 for examples. @ScientistMags collected her stories at “We HAVE to evacuate NOW!
  • How Not to Do It: Chromium Trioxide, at In the Pipeline: “The whole reaction went up in a big fireball, which filled a good part of the hood and came roaring out of the gap in the front sash. I felt the heat roll over me, yelled something incoherent, and bolted for the safety shower.”
  • From Air & Space magazine, an account of “history’s worst” rocket launch accident in China in 1996: “But instead of rising vertically for nine seconds and several thousand feet [before starting to arc toward the east] I saw it traveling horizontally, accelerating as it progressed down the valley, only a few hundred feet off the ground.”
  • Wondering about job-related injuries and illnesses at your workplace? OSHA requires employers to post a summary, called Form 300A, between Feb. 1 and April 30 for the previous year.
  • Manager says safety issues are ignored at Hanford nuclear site, and she’s filed a whistleblower lawsuit against Bechtel National and URS Energy & Construction.
  • Report faults U.S. use of Mexican battery recyclers that do not meet American environmental standards: “Since 2008, new United States limits on lead pollution have made domestic recycling complicated and costly. That has helped propel the recycling trade to Mexico, both legally and illegally, environmental groups say, because that country has less stringent limits for lead pollution, and far less vigorous enforcement.”
  • Officials from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory met with City of Berkeley representatives to discuss safety culture:

    At that committee meeting [Berkeley Lab’s Safety Culture Work Group Chair Mike] Ruggieri explained that compliance enforcement can be used to improve safety performance, but at some point a plateau is reached. To improve further, an organization needs to develop and sustain a mature safety culture that includes safety awareness in everyday business practices. He pointed to the Lab’s Integrated Safety Management (ISM) as a successful part of the culture, where safety is incorporated into projects from the initial planning stages forward.

    The Lab’s Safety Spot Award program, which recognizes employee exhibiting safe behavior with a certificate and cash award, was another example of a successful way to sustain the culture. The Berkeley committee especially liked how any Lab employee could nominate another for an award. The new Safety is Elemental pins, which are given to Spot winners, also resonated with the group.”

Fires and explosions:

Leaks, spills, and other exposures:

  • Vinyl chloride leaked at a Lubrizol plant in Kentucky
  • Two GlobalFoundries workers in Malta were hospitalized for exposure to hydrofluoric acid.
  • Something happened in a Villanova University chemistry teaching lab that led to an apparent asthma attack and nose bleed for one student, then dizziness, nausea, and breathing problems for others. They were doing a synthesis involving propionic acid and alcohol. I e-mailed the department chair to see what else he could tell me, but he hasn’t responded.

Not covered (usually): meth labs; ammonia leaks; incidents involving floor sealants, cleaning solutions, or pool chemicals; transportation spills; things that happen at recycling centers (dispose of your waste properly, people!); and fires from oil, natural gas, or other fuels.

Author: Jyllian Kemsley

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