Enhancing eye protection and livening lab coats
Jan16

Enhancing eye protection and livening lab coats

Paul Bracher posted yesterday at Chembark about trying to make eye protection more appealing to young scientists: I thought we needed to do a better job of making eye protection cool/fun, so first, we ordered them some safety glasses like “real scientists” wear (for general use) in lab. I bought three varieties of glasses from my favorite safety company. Each pair was only about $2—well worth the investment. At the next club meeting, we let the students choose what model and color they wanted. (To my surprise, the boys all wanted red frames while the girls opted for the black or clear frames.) Finally, in order to let the kids establish a personal connection to their PPE, we brought some knickknacks to let them personalize their glasses. These included rolls of colored tape and packets of jewel stickers that the kids could use to “bling out” their frames. This model had particularly wide frames that gave the kids a bunch of space to decorate. Right after the decoration activity, we performed our most demanding (and fun) activity to date: making glow sticks from scratch. I don’t think I saw a single kid remove his/her glasses during the experiment. We’ll keep monitoring the situation in the future, but I think we’ve made some headway. Chemjobber followed up with his own post in favor of the idea, even for older researchers. But one Chemjobber commenter was concerned: Adding some things to your PPE is going to decrease effectiveness... especially with flammability or reactivity. I'm not sure that's a big worry. While I'd hesitate to mess with a flame-resistant lab coat, I don't see that tie-dying or airbrushing a standard one would render it ineffective. The same goes for adding a bit of bling to eye protection, although you'd want to be careful not to hinder sight. Readers who disagree are welcome to do so in the comments, as always! If anyone has personalized their safety gear, I'd love to see it! Feel free to post photos in the comments or e-mail them to me at...

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Gloves in the laboratory: To wear or not to wear?
Sep12

Gloves in the laboratory: To wear or not to wear?

Andrea Sella, a chemistry professor at University College London, has this to say about reusable glove use in the laboratory: The consequences of using reusables is substantial. First of all, they are moderately comfortable so people wear them continuously – this leads to students wandering all over the place while wearing them – out students use them on the lab computers and spectrometers, the scales and so on, contaminating pretty well everything. Yup, it’s bad practice and that’s what we tell them. But it still happens. Secondly because they are comfortable they lead to some rather thoughtless behaviour – it’s common to see students put a gloved finger onto a hotplate to check to see if it’s hot. A few times they melt the rubber onto the tip of their finger. It doesn’t seem very bright, but more worryingly, it’s probably an indication symptom of risk compensation, the tendency of an individual to alter their behaviour when they feel safer, much as if you play football you’ll tackle that little bit more aggressively if you’re wearing shin pads than if you’re not. ... But there is another dimension to this: waste disposal. By using disposable gloves we end up having to send a quarter of a million gloves a year to be incinerated each eyar. These have been used once, and a careful student shouldn’t really have got anything onto the gloves anyway, so they are probably pretty clean. Isn’t it incredibly wasteful? For the sake of an unknown and possibly questionable increase in personal safety we end up spending tens of thousands of pounds for items that could be reused. And then have to pay for someone to take all this stuff away. He proposes at the end to have students use reusable gloves. Seems reasonable. But in further discussions with his colleagues, out came this: One of the comments that came out of these discussions was the number of incidents we’ve had over the past few years involving students transferring chemicals from their gloves to their face, neck, and elsewhere. In fact, if you stand and watch students in the lab – as I had occasion to this week – you see them contantly adjusting their safety specs and scratching their neck, nose, ears at regular intervals. All wearing gloves, of course. And because they are wearing the gloves, they are blissfully unaware that there might be anything on the outside of the glove. ... By providing gloves we are actually lulling our students into a false sense of security. They get stuff on their gloves and even if they’re aware of it, they just assume that...

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Safe science garb: Lab coats
Sep30

Safe science garb: Lab coats

A guest post by my C&EN colleague and sewing aficionado Cheryl Hogue. As Halloween approaches, demand certainly must rise for lab coats. They are essential for portraying everyone from Beaker of “Sesame Street” to characters from “Grey's Anatomy.” Nothing says “scientist” like a lab coat. Of course, lab coats are also required gear in many (most? all?) chemistry labs. What makes for a good lab coat? ChemBark’s recent blog post on buying a lab coat got me thinking about this. It also sparked a mad desire in me to design a lab coat for a woman, tailored to following curves a bit while not hugging the body. On many women, including me, many unisex lab coats look like white sacks with lapels and pockets. But before I could break out my sewing machine and go totally “Project Runway,” I began pondering the characteristics of a good lab coat. Jyllian pitched in and checked with the consulting firm Advanced Chemical Safety. She found there are neither regulatory nor voluntary standards for lab coats. So now, I throw it open to the chemistry community – what are your criteria for a lab coat? Should the characteristics of a coat vary depend on the type of work done in the lab? First, there’s color. I’ve run into folks who believe lab coats should always be white so any contamination on the garment can be detected easily. But others, like ChemBark, opt for colors, like royal blue. Roomy pockets at or below the waist seem like a must. How many of you use a chest pocket to stash a pen? How essential are slits in the side to access pockets in your street clothes? Then there are the ends of the sleeves. Should they remain open, be fastened at a cuff, or end in a knit wristlet like the ones found on this welder’s jacket? Should the coat close with buttons, snaps, knots made from strips of fabric, or Velcro? What’s the minimum length for a lab coat? Below the hips, mid-thigh, or below the knee? Then there’s fabric. Should chemists take a cue from NASCAR drivers and opt for a flame-resistant material, such that used for these lab coats? Or is the standard, and less expensive, polyester or poly-cotton lab coat appropriate for most circumstances? What are your key considerations for a lab coat? (Jyllian adds: Katherine Haxton of Endless Possibilities also posted about lab coats this...

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Eyes in the lab
Jun24

Eyes in the lab

One thing that made a big impression on me recently was a poster depicting how well different forms of eye protection work when your head is splashed. Along the lines of "a picture is worth a thousand words," the pictures clearly show that goggles are the hands-down best choice when it comes to working with liquids. Had I seen it when I was a student, that poster would have done a lot to get me to wear goggles rather than safety glasses. (Poster shown after the jump.) (Media alert: When I was getting permission from Science & Safety Consulting's Linda Stroud and Safety Emporium's Rob Toreki to put up the poster image, they told me that it's supposed to appear in the TV series The Glades as well as the upcoming movie Green Lantern.) I know, I know, goggles can be uncomfortable and foggy. The ones I had as an undergraduate certainly were. But I'm told that, if you hunt around, better ones can be found. When I attended the Laboratory Safety Institute training at the ACS meeting back in March, LSI instructor and College of Charleston chemistry professor Jack Breazeale said that his favorites are the Stealth goggles from Uvex. Another common eye protection issue is the question of whether it's safe to wear contact lenses. When I worked for a pharmaceutical company in the mid-1990s, contacts were strictly forbidden. The ACS Committee on Chemical Safety apparently gave the okay in 1998 to contact lenses when working with chemicals. In 2005, the National Institute for Occupational Safety & Health reviewed the information available on the topic and came down on the side of permitting them, assuming appropriate eye and face protection are worn for the task at hand. So: You can wear your contacts if you want, but, if you value your eyesight, it's worth investing in a good pair of goggles. Anyone have other recommendations for pairs to try...

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