Date: Tue, 16 Feb 2010 18:12:42 -0500
Reply-To: DCHAS-L Discussion List <DCHAS-L**At_Symbol_Here**LIST.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: 4 RE: [DCHAS-L] Minor Chemical Incidents in Undergraduate Labs

From: "Ellison, Mark" <mellison**At_Symbol_Here**>
Date: February 16, 2010 4:28:47 PM EST
Subject: RE: [DCHAS-L] Minor Chemical Incidents in Undergraduate Labs

But for time and/or distance and/or nature of the chemical exposed to, could this have been a major/catastrophic/fatal event?  This is the question I ask myself prior to performing a root cause analysis.


We should not have to suffer ANY pain in order to learn.  So take the root cause analysis and turn that into a lessons learned for the rest of the undergrads and communicate to them that all events, no matter how slight or insignificant, deserve at least the question "Why?".


Mark Ellison
"Plan Safety - Work Safely"
P Please consider the environment before printing this email


From: ILPI <info**At_Symbol_Here**>
Date: February 16, 2010 5:08:39 PM EST
Subject: Re: [DCHAS-L] Minor Chemical Incidents in Undergraduate Labs

Absolutely.  We learn from our mistakes and those of others.  Knowing how something could have prevented (or could have been worse) makes for a very teachable moment.    Your idea can work as long as it is not too lengthy and not punitive.  "Every" might be a bit much, as you will get a lot of repeats, but if you have one representative incident and add a note each time it is repeated you will know if your efforts are working.

I think the approach works best if if is NOT limited to the context of safety.  Safety is an integral part of every laboratory activity, so why separate it?  The sort of incidents you describe are part of the common mistakes/problems students have in performing a particular laboratory assignment and should be posted as such.  In my laboratory courses, I had great success posting laboratory assignments on the course web site, with a constantly updated list of changes/updates/alerts as we discovered them for each assignment.  These changes could include safety recommendations, equipment/procedure changes or general tips.  I had good feedback on this approach and this was in the days when students were just turning on to using the web.

One can, of course, make a separate list for general common laboratory techniques without explicitly labeling it a list of safety tips and accomplish the same goal.  Thinking back to the relatively ancient days when I took freshman chemistry, this sort of approach could potentially have avoided some mistakes I witnessed others make - pouring flammable liquid into a distillation flask above a lit bunsen burner, wiring condenser hoses incorrectly, glass tubing insertion into a hand instead of a stopper etc...

The results of such approaches are palpable whether they are in a traditional class or laboratory.  For example, when I taught freshman chemistry (non-laboratory), I saw students make the same mistakes again and again.  Eventually, I published a list of the top 5 most common student errors for each chapter of the book.  For example, in pH calculations, those were (sadly) things such as x^2 =E2=89=A0 2x, the brackets around a chemical species such as H+ mean "concentration of" etc. etc.   For many students getting these understanding these simple little things that were overlooked is all it took to get them on the road to success.  Safety can work the same way.

Rob Toreki

From: "Jeskie, Kimberly B." <jeskiekb**At_Symbol_Here**>
Date: February 16, 2010 4:44:47 PM EST
Subject: RE: [DCHAS-L] Minor Chemical Incidents in Undergraduate Labs

I just saw this question pop up as I was looking for a section on safety culture in the Department of Energy Integrated Safety Management Manual.  The coincidence was just too weird, so I had to answer. 


My personal  experience says yes=E2=80=A6 but with a caution that it doesn=E2=80=99t have to be complicated (not a true root-cause analysis).  You reserve your hefty analysis techniques for complicated events and use simple techniques (something you can finish in an hour or less) for minor incidents.  


If you are interested in reading the safety culture discussion in the manual let me know and I=E2=80=99ll send you the excerpt.  It=E2=80=99s nothing that you can=E2=80=99t find in other texts, but it=E2=80=99s summarized kind of nicely. 




Kimberly Begley Jeskie, MPH-OSHM
Operations Manager
Physical Sciences Directorate
Oak Ridge National Laboratory
(865) 574-4945

From: "Herriott, Carole" <Carole.Herriott**At_Symbol_Here**weyerhaeu>
Date: February 16, 2010 4:33:10 PM EST
Subject: RE: [DCHAS-L] Minor Chemical Incidents in Undergraduate Labs

Yes, you should investigate.  By understanding what leads to small non-injury incidents you might be able to prevent a big one that could cost a life or serious injury. 
Just my 2 cents
Carole Herriott 
Technician III 
Weyerhaeuser Technology Center 
32901 Weyerhaeuser Way S 
Mailstop: 1B22(office) 
Federal Way, WA 98003 
(253) 924-5401 (office) 
(253) 249-6709 (cell) 

Previous post   |  Top of Page   |   Next post

The content of this page reflects the personal opinion(s) of the author(s) only, not the American Chemical Society, ILPI, Safety Emporium, or any other party. Use of any information on this page is at the reader's own risk. Unauthorized reproduction of these materials is prohibited. Send questions/comments about the archive to
The maintenance and hosting of the DCHAS-L archive is provided through the generous support of Safety Emporium.