From our faculty microbiologist in response to my query:
" ...we do require students to use approved eye protection while sterilizing loops/needles due to the possibility of generating aerosols as well as the inherent dangers in having an open flame in the lab. (Some labs have moved to using bench-top incinerators for sterilizing loops and needles to deal with the aerosol issues. Safety eyewear is still used due to the heat source/hot loops and needles.) "Professional microbiologists" do, in fact, wear safety eyewear is such situations!"
I will also note that wearing eye protection "all the time" does pose a problem since most eye protection interferes with using a microscope.
Also, while she can't give more specifics, she is aware that the American Society of Microbiologist is currently working on draft regulations on biosafety guidelines in instructional laboratories.
Michigan Technological University
I teach in a college department that includes both biology and chemistry labs. Our chemical hygiene plan is designed to cover both types of labs. One statement we have is that eye protection must be worn when students use "chemicals, fire, or glass." Lately the question has come up as to whether microbiology students sterilizing loops with a Bunsen burners need eye protection.. One thought is that professional microbiologists do not do this. The other thought is that since we require eye protection in chemistry labs when students use the burners so we should also require it in microbiology. Another objection is that the goggles might melt in the flame and cause another problem. (It has been suggested we carry out tests of eye wear with burners and use tongs to hold them in the flame and determine how long melting takes.)
How have other departments handled such concerns? Is use of burners in microbiology by students a lesser risk than use of burners in chemistry labs?
Thanks for any thoughts that anyone has on this. --Nancy
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