From: Jeffrey Lewin <jclewin**At_Symbol_Here**MTU.EDU>
Subject: Re: [DCHAS-L] Student with disability
Date: July 6, 2012 11:36:31 AM EDT
Reply-To: DCHAS-L <DCHAS-L**At_Symbol_Here**MED.CORNELL.EDU>
Message-ID: <21ba6e0f6e9ce72ae565c6544827787f**At_Symbol_Here**>

I'll chime in also as one in academia and also as one who has not delt
with that specific accommodation. We regularly use open flames in our
microbiology lab to heat fix slides for staining and to sterilize
transfer loops so I can understand how problematic it could be. My
first thought was "how much real danger is there?" Having seen folks
on oxygen climb in a car then start smoking I wondered how common
medical oxygen fires are. Not surprisingly most of the googling came
up with dangers in the home and in the hospital environment.

The NFPA document:

Indicates that most (73%) of home fires were due to smoking related
materials. However, a significant (24%) were attributed to fours
sources: candles, cooking, lighting a grill and matches or lighters;
these would seem to translate to lab activities: lighting a burner
with a sparker, open flame of the burner and, not a trivial issue,
unburned natural gas during the lighting phase or a valve accidentally
left open.

While ca 41% of the fires occurred in the bedroom and 30% were in the
living room/family room/den, a not insignificant 10% occurred in the
kitchen, again probably the most similar to lab activities.

Furthermore the following statement caught my eye:

"Even if oxygen is not being used, it may have saturated the home including
clothing, curtains, furniture, bedding, hair, and anything in the area."

While obviously more applicable to a person sitting in one place for a
length of time, it also indicates that just because the oxygen is off
doesn't eliminate the danger, especially if the student is working in
the lab with oxygen on for a period of time then turns it off to take
part in the activity.

With that kind of evidence I think that a student using medical oxygen
should not be in a room with open flames.

Thoughts on how to accommodate the student:

Can other devices be substituted? While most flame sources can be
replaced with non-flame sources the options may not necessarily be
inexpensive (you can buy incinerator devices that use non-flame heat
to sterilize loops, but they obviously cost more than a burner). Of
course, if it isn't intrinsically safe it may not produce a flame but
may still produce some sort of spark or it may simply just be hot
enough to still cause combustion.

Can the activity be modified or can the "open flame" portion be done
by someone else? For example the student may be graded on his/her
ability to stain a slide, but it may be acceptable for someone else to
do the heat fixing then have the student do the rest of the activity
(and, since ethanol flush is a key step in staining we definitely
don't want flames/sparks anywhere near the activity).

Finally, the last step may be to accommodate the student in a
one-on-one activity. It would be difficult, or at least expensive, to
modify a whole microbiology laboratory to accommodate one student. It
might be better to set that student up in their own section, at least
for certain activities, when the general hazards of the lab can be
better controlled. I would encourage to the OP to contact his
school's office on disabilities and see if there is funding available
to pay for accommodations such as hiring an undergraduate to partake
in the one-on-one lab. Even if there is no funding you might find an
undergraduate volunteer that may be interested in working with the
student (check with the societies, students interested in secondary
education and/or tutors in the learning center).

As a side note, several have touched on health and other toxicological
issues. A couple of others come to mind:

Should you purchase a dedicated fire blanket to keep right next to the
student (as opposed to across the lab). Not only is the fire danger
higher, their ability to "stop, drop and roll" may be limited. Plus,
it allows for quick extinguishing of a bench fire.

How far is it to the building exit and does it involve stairs? Will
the student be able to evacuate under his/her own power? If there is
a long flight of stairs do you need to work out "shelter in place"
scenario (4 of my 7 teaching labs are on the 11th floor of a building
so long stair descents are a reality).

Finally is the oxygen on a cart and will it create a trip hazard?

Good luck, and I'd like to see you report back on what you ended up doing.

Jeff Lewin
Departmental Laboratory Supervisor
Department of Biological Sciences
Michigan Technological University

On Fri, Jul 6, 2012 at 10:05 AM, Melissa Charlton-Smith

We have never had this situation in our labs, however, you never know when
you may have to face a similar situation. So here I am rambling a reply
because maybe someday, as an academic, I may have to deal with a similar

What level course is this? Is it a freshman intro chemistry lab? A organic
chem lab? What type of experiments will be performed. You would want to
analyze the overall risk, and the per-experiment risk for the student, the
rest of the class and the instructors & lab assistants.

For myself I would ask how is the oxygen delivered. There are small
portable tanks that use a regulator that only delivers oxygen when the
patient inhales. It also gives a beep warning when the patient doesn't
inhale through the nose often enough (this assumes the student uses nasal
cannulas). This system would limit the amount of oxygen being released into
the surrounding room. If they use an "always on" cannula there will be
oxygen leakage to the immediate environmentÉand if they use an always on
mask, I assume there would be some leakage as the student moves/talks or
makes facial expressions.

SoÉI would think it a must to consult the physician about exposure concerns
and the medical supplies company about the oxygen delivery method (re:

Also, as someone else said, the nature of the illness that requires oxygen
needs to be understood to better assess potential exposures. When
considering toxic chemicals and exposure potential in the lab (or even in
the hood), what routes of exposure are of concern for any toxic compounds?
Anything that could be producing toxic fumes should be handled in the hood

Open flames, in most cases, can be replaced with hot plates/sand bathsÉ.will
there be any heating of crucibles?

You need more info about the student's health issues and then proceed from

Hope I've offered a little help.


Mel Charlton-Smith

Chemical Hygiene Officer, Lab Coordinator, Lecturer

BS-CHO program

Department of Chemistry

WV Wesleyan College

Buckhannon, WV 26201



From: DCHAS-L Discussion List [mailto:dchas-l**At_Symbol_Here**MED.CORNELL.EDU] On Behalf Of
Joseph M. Crockett
Sent: Thursday, July 05, 2012 11:30 AM

Subject: [DCHAS-L] Student with disability


A college has a student with documented disabilities who will need to bring
oxygen with her to class (and Lab!).

I got this from a colleague, and my first concern would be in a lab with
open flames.

Have any academics had to work with this and how did you handle it?

Are there any specific OSHA regulations that they need to address?

Joe Crockett, for the Virginia Section ACS

Dr Joseph M Crockett

Professor of Chemistry and Chair

Bridgewater College

402 East College Street

Bridgewater, VA 22812


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