Date: Thu, 13 Aug 2009 11:27:53 -0400
Reply-To: "Dr. Jay A. Young" <chemsafety**At_Symbol_Here**VERIZON.NET>
Sender: DCHAS-L Discussion List <DCHAS-L**At_Symbol_Here**LIST.UVM.EDU>
From: "Dr. Jay A. Young" <chemsafety**At_Symbol_Here**VERIZON.NET>
Subject: Re: Extinguishers and gloves
Comments: To: List Moderator

Sorry John, but you are not quite right.

Indeed, in your case it is obvious that you are well-qualified to use fire 
extinguishers when there is a fire in the lab.

But I must take issue with your conclusion which comes close to assuming 
that everyone else is as well qualified to use fire extinguishers as you 

In my rather extensive experience, most professors of science, even 
professors of chemistry, are simply not qualified to use a fire 
extinguisher.  And in a fire if the fire extinguisher-user does not know how 
to use that tool, the he or she often in their use of that extinguisher will 
enhance, not reduce, the severity of the fire.

Jay Young

----- Original Message ----- 
From: "List Moderator" 
Sent: Thursday, August 13, 2009 10:20 AM
Subject: Re: [DCHAS-L] 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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