In reply I would point out that extreme examples are unrealistic. When you speak of a substance being hazardous you're not talking about yes/no situations. It's not just "this substance is totally innocuous/ this substance will kill you immediately" There's everything in-between. The tendency in recent years has been to work so far to the innocuous end that students don't seem to be learning how to work safely with chemicals that can be moderately hazardous in certain situations. This is a concern. Consider the recent spate of situations where people who have had college chemistry courses but don't realize that pouring a flammable liquid on a fire is a really bad idea. (Although in all honesty, one shouldn't need to have had chemistry to realize this is stupid).
From: DCHAS-L Discussion List [mailto:dchas-l**At_Symbol_Here**MED.CORNELL.EDU]On Behalf Of Allen Niemi
Sent: Thursday, April 02, 2015 9:29 AM
Subject: Re: [DCHAS-L] C&EN Safety Zone new post: Teaching laboratory chemical safety
In reply to some of the surprising core questions mentioned in Jyllian's post I would ask. Would these people use live Ebola virus to teach proper use of PPE and patient management techniques to nursing students or hospital ER personnel? Would they use real dynamite to teach safe explosives handling to freshmen mining students? Do your authorized radioisotope users practice their procedures with "hot" materials? Furthermore, what's too hazardous for a freshman chemistry student is different than for a grad student, etc. Teaching labs are just that. If the students are just learning the techniques, they should not be learning on the most hazardous chemicals and reactions for which these techniques might eventually be used. They should also be learning how to substitute less hazardous materials where feasible -- that's part of science, too.
On Thu, Apr 2, 2015 at 7:42 AM, Secretary, ACS Division of Chemical Health and Safety <secretary**At_Symbol_Here**dchas.org> wrote:
Jyllian Kemsley posted: "A guest post by Ralph Stuart, secretary of the ACS Division of Chemical Health & Safety. Last week's DCHAS symposium on Safety in Undergraduate Teaching included several interesting presentations on effective ways of teaching lab safety, particularly"
New post onThe Safety Zone
A guest post by Ralph Stuart, secretary of theACS Division of Chemical Health & Safety.
Last week'sDCHAS symposium on Safety in Undergraduate Teaching included several interesting presentations on effective ways of teaching lab safety, particularlychemical risk assessment, for both undergraduates and incoming graduate students. It was heartening to hear about class safety efforts that went beyond a focus on personal protective equipment to include teachingthe logic of safety rules in the class lab and how these change as the work being conducted changes. Theimpact of this approach on student learning was also discussed.
Somewhat more surprisingly, core questions about the teaching laboratory were raised by several of the presentations. These included:
• Does theteaching lab mission include providing students with experience in working successfully and safely with hazardous chemicals?
• And if it is, is this aspect of the teaching missionbeing lost as less hazardous chemicals are being increasingly used in teaching laboratories?
• And if the use of hazardous chemicals isn't part of the teaching mission of general and organic chemistry labs, where are students going to learn how to work with hazardous chemicals safely?
Feedback from people who hire science majors suggests that students are expected to have basiclaboratory safety literacy when they take a job related to their major.
Following this theme, presentations highlighted the difference betweenthe tools and techniques of historical descriptive chemistry and the theory of molecular-level activity that is focused on chemistry textbooks. One presentation mentioned arecent article in the Journal of Chemical Education that suggests that the current undergrad teaching lab experience provides students with neither improved understanding of molecular theory nor increased comfort with working in a chemical laboratory.
However, an off-hard remark by one presenter raised another question in my mind that no one remarked on. He mentioned that his institution was in the planning stages for new chemistry teaching laboratories that would include a fume hood for every student team. This is becoming an increasingly common design strategy in higher education. As a result, many teaching laboratories have in the neighborhood of 40 air changes per hour (ACH); this rate is many times that generally required by safety considerations in the research laboratory (between 6 and 12 ACH are considered appropriate there).
This design habit raises concerns about ventilation noise (especially important in teaching labs), as well as aboutthe financial and carbon costs of heating and cooling these labs. Another important question to consider, more directly related to the topic discussed in the symposium, is whether students are developing chemical handling habits based on over-ventilated teaching laboratories that will not serve them well when they reach other laboratories. My experience in responding to complaints about inadequate ventilation in research laboratories is that essentially all of these complaints are rooted in poor practices in using fume hoods and/or the result of sloppy housekeeping of odoriferous chemicals outside the hood. These practices many not be noticed in a teaching lab, where ventilation rates are so high that the difference between being inside and outside the hood can sometimes be difficult to discern.
The challenge of defining the 21st mission of introductory chemistry teaching laboratories, in which the majority of students do not expect to pursue chemical research as a career path, but are likely to use chemicals as part of their science, are significant. The teaching lab role in teaching chemical safety is assuming greater importance, as indicated bya recent analysis of theACS Committee of Professional Training's guidelines for chemistry programs. However, opportunities for better understanding how to implement these criteria remain.
Allen Niemi, PhD
Occupational Safety and Health Services
Room 322 Lakeshore Center
Michigan Technological University
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