Lab safety at the Biennial Conference on Chemical Education

bcce-logo-2016Contributed by Samuella B. Sigman, lecturer and chemical hygiene officer at Appalachian State University, and Ralph Stuart, secretary of the ACS Division of Chemical Health & Safety and environmental safety manager at Keene College.

At the Biennial Conference on Chemical Education (BCCE) earlier this year, we participated in a variety of workshops and symposia that addressed chemical safety in the higher education setting. A symposium on “New directions in academic lab safety” discussed several projects that support development of a lab safety culture in the academic setting. Presentations discussed ways to foster student involvement in safety outreach efforts, the cultural impact of developing an undergraduate lab safety course, and the opportunities and challenges presented by the globally harmonized system for hazard communication in the teaching lab setting. The full list of talks in this symposium included:

  • Improving the culture of safety through student-led initiatives; Alice Paterno, Duquesne University
  • Perceptions of student safety; David E. Gardner, Lander University
  • Two credit laboratory safety course for undergraduate students; Michael Kahlow, University of Wisconsin, River Falls
  • Improving safety training in teaching laboratories: New training modules for teaching assistants; Jay Wickenden, University of British Columbia
  • From MSDS to SDS: Ideas to increase knowledge of chemical safety throughout the undergraduate curriculum; E. Kate Walker, University of Texas, Dallas
  • Safety data sheets from suppliers: For lecturers, teachers, and technicians in education, just how useful is this document; Bob Worley, CLEAPSS (a U.K. science advisory service for educators)
  • Plan to help chemical health and safety take its rightful place in the chemistry curriculum; David C. Finster, Wittenberg University

In a second symposium, “How and why we do chemical demonstrations,” members of the ACS Division of Chemical Education’s Safety Committee discussed revisions to the division’s recently updated guidelines for chemical demonstrations. The guidance document gives special attention to scope, location, planning, and risk assessment and is targeted towards educational professionals with science training. It seeks to align best practices with recommendations from the National Fire Protection Association while informing users what they should do before, during, and after a demonstration in order to ensure the safety of demonstrators and audience members.

As part of this symposium, one of us, Sammye, presented a paper on basic risk assessment development. This talk, “Hazard and risk assessment for chemical demonstrations,” focused on practical guidance for determining the hazards of a demonstration and how to collect and organize information into a basic risk assessment using five fundamental safety questions. The full list of talks in this symposium included:

  • Why and how to use chemistry demonstrations; David C. Finster, Wittenberg University
  • Revising CHEDs “Minimum Safety Guidelines for Chemical Demonstrations”; Monique Wilhelm, University of Michigan, Flint
  • Hazard and risk assessment for chemical demonstrations; Samuella B. Sigmann
  • A story-based form of chemical demonstration that promotes and assesses learning in informal venue; Brittland DeKorver, Michigan State University and Alchemie Solutions
  • Le Chatelier’s principle: Shifting the Co(H2O)62+ – CoCl42– equilibrium with concentration and temperature; Angela M. Miller, Ohio State University
  • Demonstrating particle/wave duality: A key to helping students understand some chemistry fundamentals; Jeffrey A. Orvis, Georgia Southern University
  • Reflections on 50 years of demonstrations, CheMagic, and serious chemistry: Setting up a professional outreach demo presentation with a focus on safety, message, drama, humor, and dignity; James Webb, Illinois State University (emeritus)

Additionally, Ralph presented a half-day workshop on “Meeting new chemical safety expectations in instructional laboratories” that discussed the interaction between technical and cultural aspects of lab safety issues:

The 21st century chemistry laboratory curriculum now includes discovery-based, research style laboratory work in addition to traditional “cookbook” procedures. To ensure a safe working environment in laboratories using this emerging pedagogy, laboratory safety practices must also evolve away from a strict focus on safety rules to learning lab safety through risk assessment and best management practices. Fortunately, guidelines for this transition are outlined in the ACS guidelines for Bachelor’s Degree Programs, as well as the new NFPA 45-2015 standard. To flesh out these ideas, this workshop will discuss the cultural context of lab safety concerns, and then review and provide practice with Job Hazard Analysis and Control Banding tools, as described in the ACS’s Identifying and Evaluating Hazards in Research Laboratories document. Finally, we will address how these tools can be used to address the new NFPA requirements for a documented hazard/risk assessment and a safety briefing to students in instructional laboratories. This workshop will be valuable for chemical educators who teach chemistry, present chemical demonstrations, participate in community outreach activities and/or provide oversight for undergraduate class and research laboratories.

Materials from Sammye’s and Ralph’s presentations are available here.

Author: Jyllian Kemsley

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