Liquid nitrogen calamities
Mar28

Liquid nitrogen calamities

Credit: Shutterstock Via @sarahdcady on Twitter, some liquid nitrogen stories from 2006. One wasn’t quite a calamity–but it easily could have been. Down the stairs at the University of California, Berkeley: Yesterday the LeConte elevator was out of order, which for most of us would have meant taking the long way around. However, one undergrad, tasked with transporting a full 230 L dewar, simply decided to take the stairs.At about 80% the density of water, 230 liters of liquid nitrogen weighs about 400 pounds, not counting the additional weight of the steel vessel containing it. When rolled onto the stairs, the dewar promptly tipped over and plummeted downward on its side, knocking deep gouges in the marble steps and dragging along the unfortunate student, who inexplicably held on as his cargo began to tumble. Miraculously both student and dewar arrived at the landing without rupturing, but the dewar was still on its side and pressure was building up.This was the situation when we got the frantic call from the building manager; once enough of us arrived at the scene we were able to pull the dewar upright and release the pressure. This averted any imminent explosion, but now we had a different problem: 400 pounds of liquid nitrogen stranded on a landing between the ground and first floors. Suggestions were floated including emptying the nitrogen out the nearby window, but ultimately we found another dewar which was wheeled to the top of the stairs on the first floor, and the nitrogen was transferred there through a long hose. The empty dewar was then carried up the stairs, a task requiring four men and gouging new (but shallower) grooves in the staircase. When metal plugs replaced pressure relief and rupture disks at Texas A&M University: The cylinder had been standing at one end of a ~20′ x 40′ laboratory on the second floor of the chemistry building. It was on a tile covered 4-6″ thick concrete floor, directly over a reinforced concrete beam. The explosion blew all of the tile off of the floor for a 5′ radius around the tank turning the tile into quarter sized pieces of shrapnel that embedded themselves in the walls and doors of the lab. The blast cracked the floor but due to the presence of the supporting beam, which shattered, the floor held. Since the floor held the force of the explosion was directed upward and propelled the cylinder, sans bottom, through the concrete ceiling of the lab into the mechanical room above. It struck two 3 inch water mains and drove them and the electrical wiring above them into the concrete roof...

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Send your favorite chemist a #labsafety valentine
Feb14

Send your favorite chemist a #labsafety valentine

University of California, San Francisco, chemical hygiene officer Caroline Hedge started a thread on lab safety valentines on Twitter, and they were too clever not to share. 💌 @CM_Hedge Roses are red Fire is too Review the SOP Especially if you’re new 🤢 @CM_Hedge Your eyes are red You don’t feel good Get off the bench And work in the hood 👀 @AlexFGoldberg my eyes are itchy gave them a rub oh no it’s burning didn’t take off my glub 😧 @arndt_eric Glassware is dirty Nochromix is bubblin’ Spilt some on my arm Now my lab coat is darkenin’ ❤️❤️ @olie_chem Roses are red Violets are blue We have a double glovebox So you can work too 🔥 @difluorine Roses are red Fire is blue If you happen to be burning Pb, Ta, Sn, Nb, Ce, Cs, or maybe Cu 🔥 @CM_Hedge Roses are red Some metals aren’t mellow If they catch fire Use the class D, its yellow 🔥 @ChemistryCayk Roses are red Some stuff’s pyrophoric And if it ignites We ought to run for it 😀 @CM_Hedge Roses are red Nomex lab coats are blue Wear proper PPE It’s the right thing to...

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10 years ago, Sheri Sangji died following a lab fire
Jan16

10 years ago, Sheri Sangji died following a lab fire

Today is the 10th anniversary of Sheharbano (Sheri) Sangji’s death from injuries sustained in a laboratory fire at the University of California, Los Angeles. From C&EN: Her death pushed some chemists to try to improve academic lab safety culture to prevent similar accidents at their own institutions and beyond. C&EN asked scientists from all corners of the chemistry community to describe their efforts. Read on for their strategies, including incorporating safety into chemistry education, improving training, and developing resources to help people work in a safer manner. Yet large-scale, systemic change remains elusive, as demonstrated by grievous incidents in the decade since Sangji’s death. Postdoctoral researcher Meng Xiangjian died in a hydrogen explosion at Tsinghua University in 2015. Graduate student Preston Brown lost three fingers and damaged his eyes in a nickel hydrazine perchlorate explosion at Texas Tech University in 2010. And postdoc Thea Ekins-Coward lost one of her arms in a hydrogen-oxygen gas mixture explosion at the University of Hawaii at Manoa in 2016. Adding to that list, in early December one researcher was killed and three others were injured in what seems to have been an explosion of a hydrogen-oxygen gas mixture at the Indian Institute of Science’s Laboratory for Hypersonic and Shock Wave Research. A few weeks later, three students died in an explosion involving sewage treatment experiments at Beijing Jiaotong University, according to local news reports. And those are just the incidents that C&EN knows about that involved deaths or significant permanent injuries. Many others had milder consequences, though they could’ve easily been worse. To learn more about how to improve laboratory safety culture, particularly in academic research labs, read C&EN’s...

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Gas cylinder explosion in India’s premier government lab kills 1 person, wounds 3 more
Dec31

Gas cylinder explosion in India’s premier government lab kills 1 person, wounds 3 more

Contributed by K. V. Venkatasubramanian, special to C&EN. A gas cylinder blast in a laboratory at the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) on Dec. 5 killed one researcher and left three others grievously wounded. The researchers were working in the Laboratory for Hypersonic and Shock Wave Research, which was established in the 1970s to study shock waves. Vikram Jayaram, head of IISc’s internal investigation team, told C&EN on Dec. 31 that the explosion involved cylinders containing hydrogen-oxygen mixtures that are used to generate controlled shock waves in a protected, closed container to study granite fragmentation for purposes such as mining and oil recovery. “At this stage of the inquiry, all indications are that adequate safety precautions were employed,” Jayaram said. Manoj Kumar, 32, died instantly. Naresh Kumar, Atulya Uday Kumar, and Karthik Shenoy were hospitalized. All were project engineers employed by start-up Super-Wave Technology, an IISc initiative managed by aerospace engineering professors K. P. J. Reddy and G. Jagadeesh. The company researches shock waves and their applications. Police booked the two professors on Dec. 6 on charges of causing death due to negligence and for causing grievous injuries by acts endangering the lives and personal safety of others. UPDATE: This story was revised on Dec. 31, 2018, to incorporate new information from Vikram...

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To reduce worker exposure to nanomaterials, follow workplace design recommendations
May10

To reduce worker exposure to nanomaterials, follow workplace design recommendations

Earlier this year, the U.S. National Institute of Occupational Safety & Health released new nanotechnology design recommendations to help reduce worker exposure to nanomaterials. “Workers in industries that use or make these uniquely engineered nanomaterials may inhale nanoparticles on a daily basis, posing a potential respiratory hazard,” NIOSH says in a press release. “Each workplace design solutions document provides key tips on the design, use, and maintenance of exposure controls for nanomaterial production, post processing, and use.” The documents prepared by NIOSH cover: handling and weighing of nanomaterials when scooping, pouring and dumping; harvesting nanomaterials and cleaning out reactors after materials are produced; processing of nanomaterials after production; working with nanomaterials of different forms, including dry powders or liquids. See more NIOSH resources on safe production and use of nanomaterials...

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