Date: Thu, 13 Aug 2009 10:20:57 -0400
Reply-To: List Moderator <ecgrants**At_Symbol_Here**UVM.EDU>
Sender: DCHAS-L Discussion List <DCHAS-L**At_Symbol_Here**LIST.UVM.EDU>
From: List Moderator <ecgrants**At_Symbol_Here**UVM.EDU>
Subject: Re: Extinguishers and gloves

From: "Nail, John" 
Date: August 13, 2009 10:15:21 AM EDT
Subject: RE: [DCHAS-L] Extinguishers and gloves

Let me see if I have this straight -
A researcher uses an extinguisher to put out a lab fire.
An OSHA investigator cites the institution for lack of documented  
extinguisher training, despite the obvious fact that the researcher  
was able to successfully put out the fire.
The local FD begins to remove extinguishers from the labs.

My suggestion about putting out trash can fires was in regards to the  
OSHA training issue. BTW- when I was at another university, all  
Chemistry department personnel were required to use an extinguisher to  
put out an oil fire during the annual safety training.

As a trained firefighter, you can be as angry as you want to over the  
idea that 'untrained' (unwashed?) people dare to put out fires. As a  
trained chemist who has worked extensively with pyrophoric materials,  
I am angry over your attitude that lab workers should not be allowed  
to extinguish small lab fires. As an educator, I would not let  
students use flammable liquids in a lab unless an extinguisher was  
available for me to use in any incidents.

This idea of 'remove safety equipment because lab personnel are too  
stupid/untrained/untrustworthy to use it properly is condescending,  
and frankly, leads to an attitude that gets people killed.

What EVERYONE needs to recognize is that there is a significant  
difference between a small hood fire and a major building fire.  
Whomever first discovers the small hood fire should put it out if they  
can do so safely, and yes, those of us who have handled dangerous  
materials, know a thing or two about working safely. And, no, I would  
try to fight a large fire. Yes, someone has to use their judgment when  
assessing the situation.

Whether the issue is extinguishers in lab areas or freshman chemistry  
students wearing gloves, the key question is 'do we teach how to  
assess risks and use the PPE and safety equipment that is appropriate  
to that risk or do we give students a mindless set of rules?'

In regards to the 'this is how its done in industry' argument, yes, I  
have been in industry. Industry and academia are two very different  
cultures. People in industry have different motivations than do people  
in academia. Industry and academia are not valid comparisons.

It's easier to create rules than to think.

John Nail
Professor of Chemistry
Oklahoma City University

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