Chemical safety through history

From Chemical Heritage Magazine‘s Summer 2008 edition, here’s a piece about historical chemical incidents, from a potassium explosion temporarily blinding Joseph-Louis Gay-Lussac to several chemists dying from hydrogen fluoride and fluorine poisoning: “Not-So-Great Moments in Chemical Safety”

Author: Jyllian Kemsley

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  1. That was a good article and he had me with him until the last sentence: “…a lot of pain and hardship can be avoided by following the simple rules of lab safety and using common sense.”

    Early in my career as a health and safety professional, I was working with an ex-pat post-doc who was definitely not from around here. I used that phrase – “it’s just common sense” – in talking about a lab behavior.

    He gently pointed out to me that in his country, common sense meant he could never trust the electricity would come on or stay on for the duration of an experiment. Or that water would continue to be delivered or was even suitable for washing dishes. And you had to bring the chickens indoors at night because the foxes would get them overnight. Point taken!

    “Common sense” is cultural and depends on a common societal frame of reference. Let’s be cautious about tossing around that phrase because it really isn’t all that sense isn’t all that common.

  2. I submitted the above comment before I had proofread it carefully. The last sentence should read:

    “Let’s be cautious about tossing around that phrase because that sense isn’t all that common.”

  3. Very interesting article.

    I agree with Debbie about the comment on “common sense”. Well said.