I would just say one thing, as this organization pushes for safety to be part of the training of future chemistry graduates, one should be careful by just following OSHA guidelines. Even though OSHA may allow it, does not mean it is the prudent thing to do from the long term employee exposure they could have in the laboratory. If I dip my had in something once, is it a real issue, but if I do it day in and day out, what becomes the chronic effects? I for one would never allow contacts to be worn in an undergraduate laboratory. I would also mandate chemical splash googles even if they need to be supplied as part of the lab fees. The students experience with safety is very limited and in most cases they feel they are bullet proof. Even though the student may not feel they are in danger with what they are doing, it could be someone several feet away that causes the accident that can harm them. I understand students and educators may feel it is ok at an undergraduate level due to the minimal hazards involved but if you want to build a long term safety mindset, at a minimum a waiver should be given to the student(s) to understand the hazards of contacts in the lab. I would worry that the lessons learned in the undergraduate lab carries over to future lab work without understanding the hazards especially with so many chemicals not covered by OSHA. I do understand for every rule someone will have an exception.
Our chemistry lab currently does not allow anyone to wear contact lenses in the labs. I’d like to propose that we allow contacts under safety glasses, goggles or face shields. We do use methylene chloride, many different corrosive chemicals and potent compounds (mostly in chemical fume hoods but sometimes on the open bench top if dilute or in very small quantities). The dilemma I’m facing is that OSHA states in 1910.1052 for Methylene Chloride that contact lenses should not be worn when working with this chemical. I take this a recommendation not a hard rule. Some of my safety colleagues interpret “should not” to mean that contacts can be worn as long as I can prove that a hazard does not exist (which I don’t think I can do but I feel comfortable with the risk level, citing NIOSH recommendations and scientific studies but not all studies are well enough designed to prove there is no hazard).
My hazard evaluation would include listing the chemicals that are more of a hazard and training the chemists accordingly and letting the chemists decide if they want to take the risk or decide not to wear contacts and order the prescription
safety glasses that the company will buy. Some safety people want me to limit contact lens use only for chemical use that will pose no hazards. However, in a very large lab with hundreds of chemicals that are constantly changing this would be more work than
I feel value added and would confuse the chemists leading to non-compliance.
I would like your thoughts,
Lab Safety and Chemical Hygiene Specialist
West Pharmaceutical Services, Inc.
P: +1 610-594-3278
530 Herman O. West Drive | Exton, PA 19341 | United States
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