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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