There have already been several useful responses to this inquiry but I would like to add an additional perspective.
Lab safety training in chemistry for chemistry students can actually follow a reasonably well-designed set of topics that are nicely represented in (among other places) SACL. In an undergraduate chemistry curriculum it is fairly easy to anticipate the kinds of hazards and emergency response procedures that should be learned. In some advanced labs and in research lab there will be addition idiosyncratic safety concerns and these will always need to be processed on a case-by-case basis. In all of these instances the list of "what to learn" ultimately follows the RAMP paradigm where one considers the hazards and risks, develops risk minimization protocols and reviews reasonable emergency response actions.
So, while lacking specificity, I would propose that biology students who work with chemicals should have the education that aligns with their expected hazards and risks. Much of this would be similar to the SACL table of contents, perhaps with some deletions that are more focused towards synthetic techniques. So, I would conduct a hazard and risk analysis of the first few years of the biology program and then design the training around that.
It is also the case that any proper safety instruction in chemistry will nicely prepare students for their biology lab(s). There may be additional hazards in biology labs that are not encountered in chemistry labs of course and the RAMP process should identify those. The point of this comment, though, is that since biology students almost universally take general chemistry (and perhaps some organic) they will (hopefully) get good safety training in chemistry but the timing of this will vary considerably. Many biology majors take a year of biology before taking gen chem. Alas.
I think that it cannot be emphasized enough to "new" students that the chemicals don't know what lab they are in. I tell my students (most of whom are biology majors) that biology labs are "trickier" to work in because in many experiments little or no PPE is required because many intro biology experiments don't present "chemical" risks. Thus, unlike chemistry labs where several safety protocols are ALWAYS followed because the hazards are (almost) always present, in biology labs a risk assessment/management protocol can change from week-to-week and under this circumstance it is easy to forget to wear PPE.
David C. Finster
Professor, Department of Chemistry
University Chemical Hygiene Officer
From: DCHAS-L Discussion List [mailto:dchas-l**At_Symbol_Here**MED.CORNELL.EDU] On Behalf Of Stuart, Ralph
Sent: Tuesday, March 22, 2016 1:29 PM
Subject: [DCHAS-L] Thought question: Chemical safety for biologists
I have a question that I'd like input from the DCHAS community on:
The quick version is:
What information about chemical safety do biologists need to know?
The longer version of the question is that I'm working with the KSC undergrad biology lab coordinator to develop introductory lab safety training for biology research students who work with a relatively limited suite of chemicals, some of which are flammables, others of which are significantly toxic, many of which are neither.
- For example, do these students need to hear about all of the GHS hazard classes in the 1.5 hours available for the training?
- What kind of information do they need about chemical resistance of lab gloves?
- How much detail do they need to understand best practices for chemical storage cabinets and use of other lab ventilation devices?
Thanks for any help with thinking this through.
Ralph Stuart, CIH, CCHO
Chemical Hygiene Officer
Keene State College
Previous post | Top of Page | Next post