I also agree with Larry and Russell, perhaps the institution the students are coming from could use a "friendly suggestion" from your company, especially if they are encouraging their students to apply for internships and co-ops.
At our institution all Chemistry majors are required to take a course entitled "Lab Safety Management" the semester before they enter research, this is typically the fall of their Junior year. However, we have integrated quite a bit of general safety into all our freshman and sophomore level courses. Students are not permitted to dress inappropriately for any lab and will be asked to change into appropriate attire if they attempt to enter the lab while not dressed accordingly.
Our student employees are told the day they are interviewed and again when hired that they will not be permitted to work if they do not come dressed appropriately. They must wear full length pants (preferably cotton jeans but finding jeans without synthetics in them is becoming increasingly difficult), completely closed shoes, T- shirt (or similarly covering shirt), no high heels or plastic/rubbery style shoes, no sandals etc. Despite knowing these restrictions AND having taken a 6 hour safety course they still manage to "forget" (even our veteran multi-semester workers)…and they get sent back to their dorms, car or wherever to get the right clothes on. We do allow them to store clothing/shoes in the department as well.
AS for our Junior level Lab Safety Management course not only is it a required course before research, all Chemistry majors BS, BA in any chemistry discipline we offer, Chemistry, Materials Chemistry, Biochemistry, Pharmaceutical Science and Chemical Hygiene are required to have the course as part of their major requirements.
We are discussing starting a freshman level short course similar to our work-study training course for all chemistry students, not just the majors, in addition to the lab safety training they get the day their lab sections meet. Currently the first day of ANY lab on ANY level includes a lab safety lecture, review of the lab safety guidelines and signing an agreement to follow the lab safety regulations. However, this is a general lab safety agreement and doesn't cover all the "specifics". Each lab instructor is supposed to review the safety issues during pre-lab discussions before students enter the lab. For the most part it seems that the lab instructors are doing this.
So far it seems to be helping. I am still collecting data since we've started strongly emphasizing safety discussions during pre-lab. The agreement has been in place since I was hired and has been updated regularly to reflect changes in the department.
Anyway, just my input which is probably about the same as most here.
Chemical Hygiene Officer-NRCC
Lab Coordinator, Lecturer
Department of Chemistry
WV Wesleyan College
Buckhannon, WV 26201
I was given the opportunity to pick my own topic for a Chemistry special topics course at a local university next spring. One night a week, 6:30 to 9:00, for 3 credit hours. We gave serious consideration to a safety course. I ultimately selected another topic (Nobel Science Case Studies) for the spring, but I think I'll go for the safety one the next time around.
One reservation I had about a special topics course in safety is that safety shouldn't be a special topic - it should be in EVERY lab course, and most lecture courses (I'll grant an exemption for computational chemistry). But a special topics course can expand the students' horizons much more than standard courses can - starting with a broad coverage of risk and hazard analysis, remediation etc. as well as case studies of academic and industrial successes and failures. And this kind of planning/knowledge extends far beyond chemistry - to any industrial position or even one of my other hobbies, Habitat for Humanity, where safety is an equally high priority as it is in the laboratory.
I'd imagine that some on this list have already presented a similar course or would have materials to contribute to such an offering. Watch this space - I'll be in touch on that some day ;-)
Getting back to the original post, all it takes is a firm statement on the application materials that professional/appropriate attire and PPE is required at all times, and that anyone not so equipped will be sent home. NOT accommodated, NOT excused, NOT deferred. If you aren't prepared, you leave. Then enforce it. As to arguments that someone doesn't have appropriate pants or gives a hard luck story, give them the address of the local Goodwill store. Better yet, get some old white maternity jeans, dye them bright pink, and make the ill-prepared student wear those instead of sending them home.
Finally, as I assume the students need rec letters - send feedback about not being prepared to those supporters so they understand the issue.
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On Oct 9, 2013, at 3:02 PM, Russell Vernon <russell.vernon**At_Symbol_Here**UCR.EDU> wrote:
Larry raises a good point.
It's been the explicit direction from ACS for years that safety should be integrated into the classroom.
I wonder if it's not time to look at having a separate safety course for chemistry students as well.
Russell Vernon, Ph.D.
Environmental Health & Safety
University of California, Riverside
900 University Ave
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The replies from Barbara Foster, Roger McClellan and Russell Vernon are very appropriate.. However the question makes me wonder what kind of education/training are these second and third year chemistry majors receiving with respect to laboratory safety. At this stage in their education they should understand what is the basic lab attire and be prepared to enter the lab wearing that attire. It seems that some in the academic community have yet to get an equivalent message.
Your sources of students need some guidance too.
I work for a company that accepts college students as paid summer interns and also as 6-month term Co-Ops. The students we accept are majors in Chemistry, Chemical Engineering and Biology. They are sophomore and junior level students.
We are having problems with the attire of many of the young ladies who come to us. The young men have so far not presented any problems. The problems are these:
1. The student has accepted an internship or Co-Op with us that involves working in chemistry laboratory. I am sure they have all taken a college level chemistry class, probably several. Yet they show up on the first day with cloth sneakers, sandals, leggings that expose half their bare leg, etc. When told that this is not proper lab attire, they are confused and reply that they have nothing of the sort we consider proper. We require pants (or a skirt ) that covers the entire leg and a shoe that covers their entire foot and is leather or fake leather. We even buy them an appropriate shoe, they just have to have something that will get them by for the 5 or 6 days it takes for the company-provided shoe to come in. It is sometimes a real struggle =96 they don't have a shoe that will get them by, they have absolutely no appropriate pants (or so they say), when the ordered shoe comes in they for some reason "forget" to wear it into the lab, I could go on and on.
2. Attire that is simply not appropriate for the business environment. Very short skirts, overly sheer tops, crop tops that expose the belly, extremely high heels, etc. A Human Resources colleague of mine describes it as "hooker attire".. Maybe a little exaggerated, but you get the idea. Our company has on at least one occasion sent an intern home to change clothing, and there are many other instances where we SHOULD have sent someone home.
These young ladies are majoring in a hard subjects and get good grades or we would not accept them as interns or Co-Ops. I do not think they realize how bad they make themselves look when employers have to speak with them about their attire. I also think they do not realize how hard previous generations of women have fought for women to be taken seriously in the workplace. Their dress does not advance that cause.
I am going to suggest that my company send out information to potential interns on dress requirements especially for chemical laboratories. Academic institutions can certainly help provide guidance on this too. I think parents used to do this, but I believe that is over.
Thank you for listening. Yes, I am old and growing increasingly grumpy. And I wear slip-resistant shoes that cover my entire foot and look rather dorky because I choose to work in a chemistry laboratory.
Pat Peifer, CCHO
Safety and Chemical Hygiene Specialist
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