OK, it's Friday, I have been home with two children while my Better
Half was on a business trip, I have had some Difficult Customers this
week and it is budget time.
So I am trying to 'dial it back' in terms of my response to those who
are upset that safety goggles weren't worn.
First, in my opinion this video portrays a microbiology or molecular
biology lab. It is also a dramatization. They also obviously had to
use a scenario that could be captured by the filmmaker; I'm not sure a
microliter of anything--which is what they typically work with--would
have shown up.
Second, to those who pointed out that phenol-chloroform extractions
happened in bio labs, yes they do, but IN THE FUME HOOD. I have never
seen these performed on the bench, and that's because not only do bio
labs have fume hoods, but the researchers are very good about using
them for flammables, toxics, and corrosives. In my experience, these
chemicals, and procedures like the extractions are treated with a
great deal of respect and appropriate PPE. One reason for this is
that this combo is a LOT nastier than the typical PCR solutions, etc.
which frankly often (but not always) are nonhazardous.
Thirdly, molecular biology researchers work on the bench with
millimolar solutions (typically) in microliter amounts. The kind of
splash hazard chemists envision---and I have done plenty of chemistry
and pilot-plant level work in my day--is not going to happen in these
labs. This dramatization was aimed at those researchers dealing with
these kinds of hazards. I do agree that a microliter of a millimolar
solution of formaldehyde in the eye is something that could happen
with a clogged pipetman or in the hands of an inexperienced
researcher, and could cause damage. Wearing safety glasses would
prevent this from happening--remember, we're talking microliters.
Obviously, if someone is pipetting a sodium cyanide solution into a
culture, that calls for goggles. (And working in a hood).
I am very concerned that we as a safety community need to reach out
effectively to molecular biologists, neuroscientists, and others who
use chemicals in very different ways than what we encounter in
chemistry labs. The BMBL and biosafety in general is all about risk
assessment and dealing appropriately with it. If we come in
screeching about the need for safety goggles when they are working
with nonhazardous materials and/or with tiny amounts that more or less
make a splash hazard an impossibility, I am not sure they will listen
to us when we work with them on the issues where greater PPE is needed
(use of acrolein in perfusions, anyone?) If I want to protect them
and partner with them, I must first understand the level of risk and
advise accordingly so they will see I want to help them protect
themselves (and their labmates), rather than advising inappropriate
PPE that will not be worn, with the result that no PPE is worn.
My personal opinion, not business or legal advice, and may not be the
opinion of my employer or any group to which I belong..
Margaret A. Rakas, Ph.D.
Manager, Inventory & Regulatory Affairs
Clark Science Center
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