Thanks to everyone for their thoughts on chemical safety training for bio lab workers. I'd like to provide a couple of potentially clarifying points about the context of my question:
- These students will be doing biological research rather than in classes, so the chemicals they work with may or may not be well-defined when the training occurs. Various students will definitely be working with different chemicals in different labs; for example, some will be using formalin, others will never see it in their lab.
- I have 30 minutes with them, and as the CHO, my prejudice is to lean towards chemical safety issues. However, talking with the lab tech who took the training a couple of years ago, her impression was that the trainer was fixated on methanol, which she hasn't seen in the lab since she started working. I can understand why methanol is a good teaching example, but for the labs involved here, not so much.
- While some of the research students have taken organic chem, some haven't. Some are freshmen. So trying to leverage that experience is a dicey strategy. (This is one reason I'm a little annoyed that safe practices is not considered part of science at the high school level in the NGSS.)
Based on the feedback I got to this question and discussions with people who will be in the lab with the students, my primary topics will be GHS, chemical waste disposal, correct storage of chemicals, and the different kinds of ventilation devices that one finds in the lab. In the process, I hope that I'll be able to generate questions that help tailor the content to their work.
Ralph Stuart, CIH, CCHO
Chemical Hygiene Officer
Keene State College
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