Date: Wed, 12 Aug 2009 09:54:11 -0400
Reply-To: Mary Cavanaugh <cavanaughmm**At_Symbol_Here**APPSTATE.EDU>
Sender: DCHAS-L Discussion List <DCHAS-L**At_Symbol_Here**LIST.UVM.EDU>
From: Mary Cavanaugh <cavanaughmm**At_Symbol_Here**APPSTATE.EDU>
Subject: Re: Glove use in academic teaching labs
In-Reply-To: <D9784C51-FFD5-40C6-8842-114BCE913FD6**At_Symbol_Here**>
I also think this has been a worthwhile and enlightening discussion. As
someone who came from industry and now works in academia, I've seen both
ends of the spectrum, and see validity to both sides of the argument.

When I was a young chemistry major, the best lab instructor I had, by far,
was an eccentric fellow who'd spent his career in industry (reportedly he
taught for $1 a year just to have free use of a research lab).  He was the
ONLY instructor in 4 years who pointed out what was hazardous (and not
hazardous) of what we were about to do, and expected us to think through the
process before we got started.

As a safety professional and someone who no longer works routinely in the
lab (and therefore can truly identify with the klutziness of a student :) ),
I think it's important for students to wear gloves during those early
"non-hazardous" experiments for a very simple reason: practice.

Wearing gloves changes your tactile response.  It is not as easy to handle
slippery glassware, small items, measure precisely, etc, with gloves on. Far
better to gain that dexterity and make the inevitable mistakes (dropping a
test tube, pouring a liquid so fast it splatters, etc) when one is handling
materials that won't hurt you.  

At the same time, I also think it is important to teach discernment in what
is and is not hazardous... in other words, to teach hazard assessment rather
than rote "rules."  That way we avoid unnecessary fear of "chemicals", as
well as the potentially lethal belief that one is safe simply by virtue of
wearing "the gloves I've always worn."  The process of choosing appropriate
gloves for the process, explaining when goggles are needed rather than
safety glasses, explaining why gloves are used even if not truly necessary,
etc... these are all excellent teaching moments.

Mary M. Cavanaugh CIH
University Industrial Hygienist
Safety & Workers' Comp. Office
cavanaughmm**At_Symbol_Here**appstate . edu
(828) 262-6838 Direct
(828) 262-2936 Fax

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Subject: Re: [DCHAS-L] 2 Re: [DCHAS-L] Glove use in academic teaching labs

From: "Latimer, Lee" 
Date: August 11, 2009 9:08:22 PM EDT
Subject: RE: [DCHAS-L] 2 Re: [DCHAS-L] Glove use in academic teaching  

Rebecca and Pat,

This is a worthwhile discussion.  While indeed early experiments do  
use common household chemicals like salt for their components, the  
student is building skills as well as understanding.  I would like to  
see them respect rather than fear what they work with and encounter.   
I believe that building good techniques will allow them to fear their  
materials less and handle them with respectful confidence.  A part of  
good lab technique is good PPE.  While the choice of latex vs nitrile  
gloves can come with understanding of the materials to be encountered,  
to wear gloves/Z87 safety glasses/labcoats or not is a very different  
judgment to me.

I won't argue that salt solutions for density determinations and  
similar materials need gloves.  It is the technique development and  
habits that are at the root of the desire on my part.  As they move on  
to cleansers in the home, strippers for furniture, oil changes and  
garden treatments, many will make a judgment about the need for gloves  
and glasses that will be based on their experience.  I hope that when  
they are in a lab that they know what is standard for lab situations  
and have practiced it since they first took labs so that when they  
become my colleagues, I know they have safety ingrained to their  
thoughts and I won't have to take them to a hospital because they  
didn't think they needed PPE.

I find it amazing that we have PH.D. synthetic chemists coming to work  
in industrial labs who think from the lack of enforcement PPE in their  
academic training that personal glasses are safety glasses, that lab  
coats are a maybe item and that gloves are only for when something is  
hot, cold or sticky.  So I'm in favor of improving the traditions of  
teaching technique, and reminding people that is an experiment because  
we don't know the outcome absolutely (Murphy's Law does happen).

We appreciate the efforts you make in teaching understanding, judgment  
and technique.


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