Date: Thu, 13 Aug 2009 12:37:05 -0400
Reply-To: "Norwood, Brad" <Brad.Norwood**At_Symbol_Here**ARISTALABS.COM>
Sender: DCHAS-L Discussion List <DCHAS-L**At_Symbol_Here**LIST.UVM.EDU>
From: "Norwood, Brad" <Brad.Norwood**At_Symbol_Here**ARISTALABS.COM>
Subject: Re: Extinguishers and gloves
Comments: To: "Dr. Jay A. Young"
In-Reply-To: <FD85B5CC2CD94D84A0C1AA6DCBE4C788**At_Symbol_Here**chemical6df00a>


I think you may have missed John's point. The solution to poor/inadequate t
raining CANNOT be "run away and let the professionals in".

You are correct to the extent you pointed out many faculty and students do 
not know how to properly decide which kind of fire extinguisher to use for 
what kind of fire they're presented with.  But to John's (and OSHA's) point
, that's because most HAVE NOT BEEN PROPERLY TRAINED.

To therefore make the assumption that the best response is for everyone to 
run out of the building any time a flame is sighted is, in my opinion, at t
he crux of the FAILURE of our entire approach to hazardous materials, fire 
and all things dangerous.

As the chemistry department safety officer for a well-known university, thi
s lesson was brought front-and-center when the campus police called in the 
city fire department upon encountering a small plume of gas leaking from a 
large stainless-steel cylinder on wheels one weekend.  Had they asked me in
stead of panicking, I would have told them that it is normal for helium dew
ars to vent continuously, and there was no danger (I was, after all, on the
 phone list).  Instead, the fire department was dutifully staying away from
 the building (as far away as necessary to keep the view of the dewar small
er than their thumb held at arm's length), having evacuated the building an
d called hazmat before anyone thought of contacting me...

My point here is we have attempted to replace good training, common sense a
nd judgement with a list of 'steps' to follow, that are somehow supposed to
 address every situation, and that has therefore boiled down to the lowest 
common denominator - everyone run away and let 'the professionals' handle i
t.  That is a very expensive, wasteful 'one size fits all' solution.

There ARE times when we should absolutely run from the building and let the
 professionals handle it.  But IF we properly train our people, IF we give 
them the right decision-making tools and IF we provide the needed equipment
, better decisions can be made earlier, actions taken earlier, and the risk
 to life & property significantly reduced without undue expense & downtime 
(note that this DOES require an 'up front' investment that only pays divide
nds if/when an accident happens).

Let's not give up and say we just can't properly train & equip those who ar
e doing major scientific research (professors, graduate students, undergrad
uates and post-docs) so they should just get out of the way if something ba
d happens...



-----Original Message-----
From: DCHAS-L Discussion List [mailto:DCHAS-L**At_Symbol_Here**] On Behalf Of Dr
. Jay A. Young
Sent: Thursday, August 13, 2009 11:28 AM
To: DCHAS-L**At_Symbol_Here**LIST.UVM.EDU
Subject: Re: [DCHAS-L] Extinguishers and gloves

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 ho
to use that tool, the he or she often in their use of that extinguisher wil
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  Chemistr
> 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 t
> 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 
> 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  i
> 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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