Lesson learned video: An acid spill without a lab coat

From Northwestern University and a chemistry graduate student who suffered a chemical burn from a triflic acid spill:

“I probably would not have thought to go to the hallway right away, if someone wasn’t there to point me in the direction. I probably would have run around the lab trying to remember where the shower is, knowing full well that there wasn’t one in there.”

“It was a freak accident in terms of it shouldn’t have shot out at me. But if I would have been wearing my lab coat, probably almost 99% chance it would have never contacted my skin, just would’ve had to get the lab coat off really quickly.”

“I remember in undergrad, it was a huge thing: Always wear your lab coat, that’s what I was taught. It was definitely something I was taught here as well during training and all that. It’s what I started doing. But as time went on and I looked at different people in lab and other labs, there’s actually a number of people who don’t wear their lab coats, actually a much greater number than I was ever expecting, which is not something I was used to at all. So at times, especially during the summer when it got really hot, there was times when I knew what I was doing so I just wouldn’t put it on. I sweat very easily and that just made it worse. It’s just one of the things. Especially at the end of the day, I just didn’t think to use my lab coat and I thought I’d be really quick. But clearly no matter what I’m doing in the lab I should’ve been wearing it, as everyone should.”

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Author: Jyllian Kemsley

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  1. This post is just one more in a long line of examples illustrating the need for all labs to be climate controlled with the temperature maintained cold enough to provide a comfortable environment to encourage wearing PPE.

  2. To think back in the day RB Woodward would shake a sep funnel full of ether while smoking a cigarette! To be honest, chemistry can be a dangerous profession, and you have to accept those risks (even PPE won’t help you if you inhale a lungful of HCN)