Safety training at ACS meetings in San Diego and Philadelphia
Feb03

Safety training at ACS meetings in San Diego and Philadelphia

As it always does, the American Chemical Society Division of Chemical Health & Safety is offering workshops on the Friday and Saturday prior to this year’s national meetings in San Diego and Philadelphia. The courses include: Laboratory Waste Management Lab Safety How to be a More Effective Chemical Hygiene Officer Reactive Chemical Management for Laboratories & Pilot Plants Meeting Chemical Safety Expectations in Instructional Laboratories Cannabis Extraction and Analysis If you register early, the fees are $300 for CHAS members, $350 for non-CHAS members, and $99 for K-12 science teachers who are members of the American Association of Chemistry Teachers. (Why might a teacher need safety training? Read this.) Click here for more information on the workshops and to...

Read More
Lessons from methanol flash fires
Jan19

Lessons from methanol flash fires

From a letter to the editor in this week’s C&EN: Yet another methanol flash fire has occurred with injuries when a high school teacher was demonstrating the “rainbow” flame test (C&EN, Nov. 9, 2015, page 6). While “rainbow” demonstrations have been conducted safely many times, they become dangerous if a large bottle of methanol is brought back to the demonstration to add more methanol. This same mistake has been repeated many times with catastrophic results. … The big lesson learned is that undergraduates (tomorrow’s teachers, graduate students, scientists) need a solid safety laboratory education—the long-term fix. Today’s undergraduates get safety training, not a safety education. Safety education teaches the “why” behind hazards so the student can understand and learn to respect the need for safety. Understanding the “why” teaches students the basis for safety measures and rules—making them more likely to use and follow them. Safety education teaches the student to think critically about safety. More than once, I have heard, “There’s not room in the curriculum” for safety education. We need to rethink our priorities, values, and ethics. Among various topics in chemistry, safety is the only one that can result in serious injuries or death if it is not taught or valued. Safety education needs to be included in the chemistry curriculum from the very beginning, teaching principle-based safety: Recognize hazards, assess the risks of hazards, minimize the risks of hazards, and prepare for emergencies. Many of our science teachers only take a few courses in chemistry, so we need to get to them early and often to give them as much of a safety education as we can before they move on to other majors—it is clear that flammable hazards need to be understood by these students. Read the full letter here. Find safety resources for demos and student experiments at...

Read More
Protecting yourself in the line of fire
May27

Protecting yourself in the line of fire

Contributed by Dow Lab Safety Academy Ever held a cup while pouring hot coffee into it? Or held a nail for someone else wielding a hammer? In both instances, you’re putting yourself in the line of fire. If something goes wrong, injury could result. We do lots of things in our daily lives that could result in injury, but don’t. So we can become complacent and don’t even think twice about certain tasks. But being in the line of fire, especially in the lab, can add up to trouble. It can hurt, incapacitate or, in severe cases, kill you or your coworkers. Here are some ways to improve safety by removing or controlling dangers in the lab. 1. Look for hazards before you start working. At its most basic level, the line of fire is the path of a moving object that could potentially injure you or the potential path of an object that may move. Ask yourself: What can hurt me while I’m doing this task? If you’re unsure, ask a co-worker or supervisor. It’s always good to have a second set of eyes review what you’re planning to do. 2. Eliminate the hazard when possible. Once line-of-fire hazards are identified, take steps to eliminate or control them. The best-case scenario is to remove the hazards completely. An example of this would be pipetting a chemical from one container to another instead of pouring the chemical out of the container. 3. If you can’t eliminate, then control. If it’s not possible to remove the hazards, neutralize them. For example, use a fume hood and proper personal protective equipment to avoid exposure. Consider the following questions: Where is my body located in relation to the hazard? What is the worst-case scenario of my task? How can I protect myself from the hazard? 4. Use best practices for minimizing hazards. There are many easy and effective methods to eliminate and control line-of-fire hazards. For example, organize the lab area to provide unobstructed and easy access to equipment, use signs and stickers for clear labeling, keep pathways clear, eliminate possible pinch points on doors or hand tools, and always use the correct tool for the job. For more on this topic, watch the Line of Fire video in the Plan, Evaluate & Execute module at the Dow Lab Safety Academy. The Dow Lab Safety Academy is a free digital learning environment that seeks to enhance awareness of safety practices in research laboratories. Disclaimer: See Dow’s Terms of...

Read More
Three ways to become a great safety mentor
Apr29

Three ways to become a great safety mentor

Contributed by Dow Lab Safety Academy If you ask top athletes what has been most influential to their success, most will probably mention a great coach. That’s because coaches teach, guide, encourage, and challenge players to meet important goals – both in the game and in players’ lives. That same type of relationship improves safety in the lab. Safety requires a combination of education, common sense, and vigilance. Mentors can make that happen by sharing best practices with newcomers and helping them avoid incidents that can put everyone at risk. Here’s how you can be a great safety mentor. 1. Show them where it’s at. Provide newcomers with a tour of your building and lab. Show them the locations of essentials, such as the safety shower and eyewash, safety supplies, waste collection points, and emergency alarms. Review the map showing emergency exits as well as evacuation and shelter-in-place locations. 2. Go over the guidelines. Review important safety procedures with new lab coworkers, including hazard assessment tools, techniques, and procedures used by the work group; proper personal protective equipment; safety data sheets; chemical labeling; and even current ergonomic guidelines. 3. Always be available. Mentoring goes beyond making sure your mentees know about safety equipment and proper procedures in the lab. Become a one-stop source for answers, direction, and coaching. Explain that you expect and welcome questions – all types of questions. You would rather answer a question than have your new colleague take unnecessary risks. Ever. Positive mentoring relationships benefit everyone in the lab. The end goal is successful and safe research and lab work. That’s definitely worth your time and effort. For more on this topic, watch the Mentoring video in the Sustainable Safety Culture module at the Dow Lab Safety Academy. The Dow Lab Safety Academy is a free digital learning environment that seeks to enhance awareness of safety practices in research laboratories. Disclaimer: See Dow’s Terms of...

Read More
Boost your lab ergonomics IQ
Mar31

Boost your lab ergonomics IQ

Contributed by Dow Lab Safety Academy When people talk about ergonomic issues, they often refer to things like carpal tunnel syndrome from sitting at a desk and typing. But there are also ergonomic risks associated with working in a laboratory. If you know what they are, you can take steps to minimize stress on your body and avoid injuries. Here are four ways to improve your lab ergonomics. 1. Start with proper attire. Shoes matter, especially in a lab where hazardous materials could spill. Opt for something with a cushioned sole, closed toe, closed heel, and impervious material. Also, be sure to remove loose-fitting clothing that could interfere with your experiments 2. Pay attention to posture. Since many lab stools don’t have backs, it can be challenging to keep your back straight. But it’s important to do so, as poor posture can lead to fatigue and injury. When seated on a stool, be sure your feet are flat on the floor by adjusting your seat height to the proper level. 3. Reduce back strain when standing. Fatigue can come into play when you have to stand for long periods of time. Lab mats are an important piece of ergonomic protective equipment that can help relieve strain on the feet, legs, and back. Use one when you’ll be standing at a sink, lab, or hood for prolonged periods. 4. Embrace the mini break. When your muscles begin to get sore, it’s your body’s way of telling you to rest. Plan stretch breaks into your day after 20 minutes at any task or any time you are doing a repetitive task. Quick mini breaks or changing tasks can have a big effect. At the first sign of discomfort, contact your local health official to address the issue. Fighting through the discomfort will lead to pain and could potentially lead to an ergonomic injury. For more on this topic, watch the Laboratory Ergonomics video in the Orientation & Training module at the Dow Lab Safety Academy. The Dow Lab Safety Academy is a free digital learning environment that seeks to enhance awareness of safety practices in research laboratories. Disclaimer: See Dow’s Terms of...

Read More
How McKinsey makes training mandatory
Jan13

How McKinsey makes training mandatory

From a New York Times profile of McKinsey & Co. CEO Dominic Barton and his efforts to change the company’s rules and culture regarding personal investment after insider trading scandals: At McKinsey’s London office last fall, a recently hired associate sat at a computer for an orientation session. The associate worked at McKinsey as a business analyst several years earlier and then left the firm for a nongovernmental organization. During her first stint, she simply signed a form confirming that she understood McKinsey’s investing rules. This time, though, she had to walk through a 45-minute interactive program. When McKinsey first introduced this tutorial, six employees refused to complete it, saying it was a sign that the firm was turning into a “nanny state.” They left the firm. To push recalcitrant employees to complete the test, McKinsey cuts off their email access until they comply. The story says that all McKinsey consultants–not just new ones–have to complete tutorials such as the one described and senior partners in particular weren’t to too happy about it. Barton...

Read More