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I know someone that was temporarily blinded by a cryovial in LN2 and that isn’t all that uncommon. We created an update on LN2 use after a few incidents here.
If you Google/Bing “Nunc Cryopreservation Manual” you will find some good guidance on cryosafety.
Our procedure is at:
We require goggles.
This is another one of those topics that telegraphs the safety disconnect between academia and industry.
I have 15 years of experience using liquid nitrogen at four major research institutions (on a daily basis for many of those) and I don't recall anyone *ever* using a face shield when working with liquid nitrogen, and that includes filling 200 liter dewars from the larger building supply dewar and the NMR lab techs who do the routine N2/He fills. At *best* safety glasses were used, and I can distinctly recall seeing folks doing Dewar fills without any eye protection - after all, they weren't in the lab anymore, they were down by the loading dock or in a basement somewhere for the big fills, and safety glasses are only required in labs, right?
Of course, in those 15 years I never saw or heard of an incident involving liquid nitrogen that required any sort of first aid treatment. I did see a second degree frostbite burn on someone who carried a block of dry ice without gloves, personally found out that sticking my head way down into the dry ice chest to get the last block is not a good idea, and saw (as you all know) plenty of fires and explosions, but no issues with liquid N2.
Now, I'm not saying that liquid N2 is harmless and that you don't need face shields or other protection (insulating gloves, even ear plugs for Dewar transfers). Although one could probably argue face shields are overkill, that's not the point of my comment.
The point is that the academic research community is often blind to best practices. The safety culture of academia is undermined by the transient nature of the staff (grad students showing new grad students how they learned to do things "safely"). We saw that with the UCLA tragedy and I can all but guarantee that there are still labs that use improper transfer techniques for pyrophorics because that's the way they've always been done in those labs. How do we unlearn bad habits that come about through inertia or oversight? How do academics prepare students for a job in industry when they've never held industrial jobs themselves?
It's almost like we (i.e. industry, academia, chemists, biologists, safety admins etc.) need a peer-reviewed and maintained "Wikipedia of Research Safety" that researchers everywhere could *easily* turn to as a gold standard of sorts. Want to know the safe way of doing a particular procedure or the dangers or a particular chemical? Go there. Want to know how formalin is handled at other institutions? Go there and find a concise listing. Forget random web searches, we need one central location with definitive answers.
I'd say that the DCHAS community's response to the UCLA incident was an excellent first step in that direction. And there are many other individual resources out there that could be linked to for further information. I wonder if something like I describe would be fundable through ACS/NSF/NIH etc.? Would there be a support for a Safety Initiative that could underlie the thousands of individual efforts made by colleges, universities, and businesses alike? Something that would not just make safety compliance easier but better? I guess that's all a whole new thread....
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A lab tech writes:
Do you have a recommendation for an appropriate face shield that people
should be using when working with LN2? I've been searching the web and it's
hard to find a specific recommendation for a face shield to be worn with
cryogenics. I don't see any guidelines on OSHA that point to any
particulars and nothing on the Cryogenic Society of America's site either.
I would appreciate your assistance.
Does anyone have any favorites they'd like to recommend?
Ralph Stuart, CIH
Environmental Safety Manager
University of Vermont
Environmental Safety Facility
667 Spear St. Burlington, VT 05405
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