From: Jeffrey Lewin <jclewin**At_Symbol_Here**MTU.EDU>
Subject: Re: [DCHAS-L] looking for fire safety examples for training class
Date: Sun, 11 Aug 2013 18:03:23 -0400
Reply-To: DCHAS-L <DCHAS-L**At_Symbol_Here**MED.CORNELL.EDU>
Message-ID: CAEwQnqiyLw_zXOOM1TtMhsU71Gb7jvFSneWW30VYqBaVBb=W_g**At_Symbol_Here**

The new (draft) version from the American Society of Microbiology teaching guidelines recommends using incinerators or disposable loops in place of open burners when working with cultures. We've attempted to move to all incinerators in our micro lab but have had QC problems with the burners (elements burning out) once that is taken care of I will remove the open flames from the lab. I've also recently had an (expensive) incident where a burner ruined a HEPA filter in a Biological Safety Cabinet. I'm sure people will continue to use them in research labs, even if it isn't best practice, due to cost and easy access (natural gas is available in almost every lab), "convenience" and habit, but I'm going to start discouraging it.

My personal experience with fire was nearly 10 years ago where I made the (dumb mistake) of absent-mindly moving a lit alcohol burner in a general biology teach lab from one bench to another. The wick fell into the burner as it burst into flame in my hand. I didn't suffer any injuries but dropped it causing an alcohol fire on the floor. I was content at first to let it burn out but it started to burn under a wooden lab bench so I ended up using a fire extinguisher. Yes, I did file an incident report (using a fire extinguisher requires it) and I learned a lot that day about paying closer attention to what I am doing with fire, how to deal with a fire in the lab and, as an aside, chemical fire extinguishers are a huge mess to clean up. Oh, and I threw away all the alcohol burners and changed to gas. Once we get a reliable incinerator supply I'll replace those as well.

Jeff Lewin
Biological Sciences
Michigan Technological University

On Fri, Aug 9, 2013 at 2:13 PM, Kim Gates <kim.gates**At_Symbol_Here**> wrote:
I'm looking for examples of fire safety/response in labs for my Fall Semester new Grad Student training. I'd like to include a few fire safety responses that people who've been working in labs for many years know, but a new student wouldn't know unless they were told. I'm hoping DCHAS members can help!

We have had a few small, incidental fires in labs over the past few years. Many times its a new lab worker who isn't familiar with lab techniques involving bunsen burners. Example - a small beaker of ethanol caught on fire & the lab worker panicked and tossed the beaker across the bench into the sink. A better response would be to cover the beaker with fire resistant glass/metal and let the flame extinguish. Another example is a single paper towel caught on fire from the bunsen burner and the student panicked and tossed it into the trash. A better response would be to drop it to the floor and step on it or toss it into the sink (which was next to this example) if nearby and pour water on it.

The main thing to pass on to the students is that if they are working with something (e.g., bunsen burner open flames) that has the potential to catch on fire, they need to be prepared, stay calm, and react safely.

They also need to know that if the fire is larger than these incidental fire examples, to exit the lab and pull the fire alarm.

If you have other examples, please pass them along - I'm planning on adding a slide to the lab safety training for this.

I will compile the list & repost to share.

Thanks for all your help!

Kim Gates
Laboratory Safety Specialist
Environmental Health & Safety
Stony Brook University
Stony Brook, NY 11794-6200
FAX: 631-632-9683
EH&S Web site:

Please note my name and email have changed.

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