Date: Tue, 7 Sep 2004 19:48:00 -0400
Reply-To: "Mary M. Cavanaugh" <cavanaughmm**At_Symbol_Here**APPSTATE.EDU>
Sender: DCHAS-L Discussion List <DCHAS-L**At_Symbol_Here**LIST.UVM.EDU>
From: "Mary M. Cavanaugh" <cavanaughmm**At_Symbol_Here**APPSTATE.EDU>
Organization: ASU Safety & WC Office
Subject: Re: Fw: [DCHAS-L] Safety Rules
In-Reply-To: <p06010209bd637806a197**At_Symbol_Here**[]>
Chris, Dr. Toreki said it beautifully.  Ditto, ditto, ditto.

As a State school Marshall may not be subject to OSHA regs (but you might,
it depends on the state).  But in a way it doesn't matter because the
students aren't subject to OSHA anyway.  However, the school IS subject to
lawsuits from students, and failure to follow the "standard of care" is a
sure way to lose a lawsuit (and unlike OSHA fines, the dollar amounts can be
astronomical).  OSHA and ACS recommendations ARE the minimum "standard of
care" for labs.

In addition, by willfully disregarding the standard of care, this Dean is
opening himself up to PERSONAL liability.

I know all too well what it can be like to be the new kid on the block and
trying to get administration/faculty to change. Going in gung-ho with
liability threats can sometimes do more to cause friction than to effect
change.  But doing nothing and accepting the status quo is of course

You might see if you can meet privately with your school's legal staff and
explain your quandary, then have the legal staff advise the dean.  Or ask to
meet together with the legal staff and your either or both supervisor and
the Dean, and broach this issue in a nonconfrontational way ("I am concerned
that doing xyz opens us up to liability.  What is your feeling on this?"  By
all means ask your immediate supervisor for any advice s/he has in how to
approach this. University politics has a lot of unwritten protocols and a
dizzying web of chains-of-command, so if you are new to the job it can help
a lot to ask someone who's been around a while "who is the right person to
tell so-and-so to do this?"

And definitely, definitely make sure you communicate your advice about the
requirements in writing to the dean. If a memo copied to the legal staff is
too in-your-face for this stage, an email can do nicely... And of course
it's only natural that you would cc your boss on such emails, just so that
s/he is aware of your work (wink wink).

Hope these ideas help.


-----Original Message-----
From: DCHAS-L Discussion List [mailto:DCHAS-L**At_Symbol_Here**LIST.UVM.EDU] On Behalf Of
Sent: Tuesday, September 07, 2004 11:39 AM
To: DCHAS-L**At_Symbol_Here**LIST.UVM.EDU
Subject: Re: [DCHAS-L] Fw: [DCHAS-L] Safety Rules

>I am a new safety in my college of science and am running into problems
>with the dean.  He does not want to follow standard laboratory
>practices regarding clothing (short tops, long pants,
>shoes) because it might scare someone.  His logic behind the pants is
>they could trap corrosives and cause more damage than if the student
>was wearing shorts.  Does anyone have any suggestions on how to deal
>with this issue or knows about an injury resulting from wearing pants
>as opposed to shorts?
>I am trying to convince him, using the ACS guide to laboratory safety
>but to no avail.  If anyone could offer suggestions it would be
>Chris Wysong

Tell your dean that (with all due respect) you corresponded with a number of
safety professionals at other institutions and their consensus is that he is
wrong and that it is your understanding that his policy willfully disregards
accepted safety practices and invites potential lawsuits.  Do this in
writing and be sure that your University legal department is prominently
cc'ed on the letter.  And
retain copies of all correspondence in the  matter.   If you aren't
willing to take this on for fear of reprisal (check into your state
whistleblower laws first) have a professor take the lead on it..  And there
is always the president, board of trustees, local media etc. if you really
want to make it a fight.

Lab coats and/or aprons may be an acceptable compromise on some issues, but
open footware etc. is just plain ridiculous.

A few specific comments on his ill-advised logic:

1. I have personally seen laboratory accidents where shorts versus long
pants have made a difference in outcome.  But rather than dwell on those,
here's a better proposal:

We'll run some tests.  In test 1, he'll put a drop of 12 M sulfuric on his
bare leg, I'll put one on my jeans-clad leg, and we'll see who can last the
longest.  In test 2, we'll poke ourselves in the leg with a glass pipette
tip and see if skin affords better penetration
protection than jeans.   In test 3, we'll drop a flask of
concentrated HCl onto the ground next to our feet - him in sandals and me in
sneakers - and we'll see if there are differing outcomes.

2. Your dean is inviting a lawsuit the size of Montana - imagine the field
day that a victim's attorneys will have when they find out that he ordered
you to deliberately violate best safety practices and, oh yes, the
recommendations of OSHA.  With both OSHA and the ACS having made
recommendations *against* what your dean is opposing, it would be a slam
dunk liability case.  And nothing incites juries more than willful

3. Alas, as a state school, Marshall does not fall under OSHA's
jurisdiction.   If it was a private employer, then  the OSHA
laboratory Standard 29 CFR 1910.1450, Hazard Communication Standard
1910.1200, and a few other PPE standards would require the university to
conduct a hazard assessment and appropriate PPE - which in this
case would involve proper attire and closed footware.   And while
failure to do so would invite an OSHA citation, *willful* violations such as
the one he proposes could result in a tripling of any monetary fine.

Dr. Robert Toreki
    Interactive Learning Paradigms, Incorporated (ILPI) 100% custom content
development for e-learning programs.
Ph: (859) 396-5218, Fax: (859) 523-0606, sales**At_Symbol_Here**
        Lab & safety supplies?  Visit

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