I applaud the Chair of the Chemistry Department Safety Committee for reaching out to others for input that will assist the Department in strengthening its safety procedures to ensure the safety of faculty, staff and students working in laboratories. However, I am concerned by the content of last sentence of the first paragraph and the second paragraph. These portions of the memo imply that the world of safety is different in the academe versus other sectors of Society. Many events in recent years have emphasized that the time is past when safety standards could be viewed as different in the academic world and, for example, the industrial sector. Everyone should aspire to the same level of safety in all areas. Yes, the challenges may be different in different
settings , but, the safety goals should be the same. Moreover, as repeatedly noted by others most of those being educated will ultimately pursue careers outside of the academic world and , thus, will need to use the practices and procedures demanded by those employers.
The author of the memo by indicating that they want "some feedback, particularly from academic members of the listserve" is potentially closing the door on valuable sources of input that may help the Department strive to attain "best practices" status. In my opinion, some chemists in industry are routinely performing new exothermic reactions in their laboratories. I suspect these individuals might be excellent sources of "best practices" for your Department to aspire to in the future.
The scientific community needs to move beyond an era when one set of "best practices" is acceptable in the academic
setting where individuals are being educated and trained to work in another setting that has a higher standard of "best practices". The scientific community needs to be leading this shift in attitude and not waiting for the courts to impose it!
It would be interesting to learn how rigorously the accident in question was investigated . The fact that the splash was small is fortunate. It is interesting that the brief description mentions the student , as though they were working in isolation and independently. What was the role of the faculty members who had the ultimate responsibility for the laboratory. Did the Chair of the Chemistry Department ultimately accept some responsibility for the accident and acknowledge the need for change. There needs to be clear acknowledgement of a chain of responsibility between the student and the Department Chair..
Thanks for hearing me
From: Kim Gates <kim.gates**At_Symbol_Here**STONYBROOK.EDU>
Sent: Friday, February 14, 2014 7:51 AM
Subject: [DCHAS-L] Chemistry lab reactives question
The Chair of our
Chemistry Department Safety Committee asked me to post this to this list. Thanks for any & all responses.
Dear DCHAS members,
Hello! I am chair of the safety committee in the Chemistry department at Stony Brook. We had an incident recently where a student was performing an exothermic reaction that overheated and subsequently had some splashback. The splash was small, the student was working in the hood and wearing the proper PPE, and he was fine. But as a department we would like to develop some "best practices" to help avoid incidents like this in the future. Our problem is that most of the recommendations that are out there refer to scaling up reactions that have already been performed on a small scale, where the properties of the components and heats of reaction are well-known. I am a chemical engineer by training, so I'm very familiar with scale up,
calculations for runaway reactions, and so on. This is not what we are looking for. What about when students are synthesizing a completely new target? What guidelines can we give them to help prevent overheating and a dangerous situation? We are struggling with how to apply the recommendations we have found in the context of academic organic research labs,.
I'd like some feedback, particularly from academic members of the listserve, on guidelines, recommendations, or "best practices" you have in place for performing new exothermic reactions in the lab. You can respond directly to my email, which is surita.bhatia**At_Symbol_Here**stonybrook.edu
. I will compile what I receive and share it with the listserve for those who are interested.