Thanks to everyone for their responses. I am used to folks in the lab trivializing real hazards, for the most part, because they encounter them often without incident. This one really irked me and everyone saw it my way, acknowledging the cost of students breaking expensive glassware, except the technician in charge. I spoke with their chairperson and had a heart to heart and told the tech to think about it over the weekend. I don?t know if she came around and apologized after the holiday weekend because her chair spoke to her or because of some epiphany.
Whatever the case, we are now on the same page. I do not know if the difference of opinion is from lack of experience, cultural, or trivialization. Money is not the issue because there are more still heads on the shelf and it is a new fiscal year.
One thing that struck me during our conversation was the statement by the tech: ?I cannot replace every piece of glassware with a small flaw, but we always replace beakers with chipped rims because students get cut washing them?.
Contradictory huh, acknowledging that students get cut more often on beakers as opposed to other types of glassware, so it is okay to use the other the other types when broken because students get cut less often. I replied that I was not asking them to replace all the glassware, only the ones that they become aware, such as when students bring it to their attention.
Funny, I recall going through this with beakers a few years ago with the same tech? that?s why they are so cognizant about the cuts caused washing broken beakers.
I too am a ?true believer?. I worked in that same lab as a technician over 10 years ago and I was severely cut (sliced open a venule) by a fractionating still when it crashed down on my wrist due to a hairline crack in the column that was not detected while trying to adjust it. I was not as experienced, spread thin and fatigued. Maybe that is why this bothered me so much...
....but these are all necessary evils. We do not sacrifice safety for service, and that is why we all do what we do to keep the workforce safe from all harms (i.e. those that would allow sub standard equipment to be used when it ought to be replaced).
Thanks again to all,
From: George D. McCallion [medchem**At_Symbol_Here**comcast.net]
Sent: Wednesday, September 03, 2014 12:06 AM
To: DCHAS-L Discussion List
Cc: James Saccardo
Subject: Re: [DCHAS-L] issue broken glassware to students
Fellow DCHAS members,
First, I apologize for responding to this post so late, but I felt it necessary due to my expertise in the field of synthetic organic chemistry (interested? check my LinkedIn page).
Now?James?I feel the need to respond to this post, both to you directly and to the group at large.
First off, you are NOT doing anything incorrect by informing someone of the dangers of non-functioning glassware.
Safety should never be sacrificed for service!
The still head should have been taken out of service completely (or even discarded into the glass bin for the glassblower to repair). The notion of a budget constraint, etc. are nonsense. Question: what would be consequences if such a piece of equipment was used, and the system ruptured (if under vacuum, for example)? Or if the student cut their hands on the glassware? I think we can all agree that the costs of medical care and potential legal action would be greater than simply a replacment-in-kind.
Or am I incorrect here?
I would like to know WHY the technician said the distillation unit will work, even if cracked? Has this person ever done a distillation with cracked glassware? If so, I would doubt if their distillation ever came to fruition, or at least lost material in the process.
Ground glass joints, with ANY deformations whatsoever, must be taken out of service and replaced in-kind. period.
I have personally observed a fellow scientist assemble a 5L distillation unit (for vacuum operation) with a hairline crack on the reactor vessel flange. I indicated that it would not be advised to run the systems as-is due to potential failure of the vessel with the crack. He said that the stainless steel clamp holding the reactor to the reactor head would mitigate any possible failure. I told him to document the observation (which I made my comments therein as well).
Long story short, the system exploded. Luckily it was behind safety glass in a hood, and thus nobody was injured.
Take home message: if it is broke, replace it outright. Do not sacrifice safety for service.
Experienced scientists must be able to stand up and make safety points clear. Sad to say, however, some people refuse to learn and find things out the hard way (I too was like that?once long ago).
George D. McCallion
124 Magnolia Court
Collegeville, PA 19426
On Aug 29, 2014, at 2:21 PM, James Saccardo > Hi Listserv members, Previous post | Top of Page | Next post
> Here is something for the list serve, I think it is simple and straight forward, but it has become complicated.
> I just want to hear the opinion of some of my colleagues who may be able to express what is right more elegant than I.
> So it is the first day of classes in the organic chemistry lab sequence I, I am hanging around to show students where to put their bags, how to use the hoods, and in general think about the risks and incorporate safety into their technique. The students check into a locker drawer filled with intricate glassware. While students are checking in, the instructor (a graduate student) is walking around and the lab technician is in the prep room. A student comes up to the prep room window and asks for a beaker that is missing and to have a broken distillation head replaced. It is cracked in a jagged fashion at one of the ground glass joints, but might still work without leaking. Perhaps it would work in a still apparatus, but the jagged edges are a greater risk for the novice who is new to the hood, PPE, organic chem and the intricate glassware.
> The lab technician provides the missing beaker and tells the student that the distillation, while cracked, will still work, the department does not have any money and she cannot replace it. I come to find that the technician has 2 dozen new distillation heads on the shelf, but insists on worrying about the department budget. The arguments she uses are invalid, this or that has not been fixed, a chemical order was canceled without her knowledge, the provost is to blame because they took the money.
> Of course I could replace the still head myself, but what have I really done to change things. I am trying to educate her and change her culture. I am trying not to kick this up to a higher level. Before I do, I wanted to see what the list thinks about this.
> Be Well,
> James Saccardo, CHMM
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> Hi Listserv members,
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