From: "Wilhelm, Monique" <mwilhelm**At_Symbol_Here**UMFLINT.EDU>
Subject: Re: [DCHAS-L] 20L Drums of Flammables
Date: Tue, 22 May 2018 02:29:29 +0000
Reply-To: ACS Division of Chemical Health and Safety <DCHAS-L**At_Symbol_Here**PRINCETON.EDU>
Message-ID: 1109037139E1524980CF9CBEB2476618010B1FC80F**At_Symbol_Here**

Roger and Alan,


Thank for your thoughtful responses and high level of concern.  I am sorry that my initial solicitation led to yet another contribution to the thinking that academic labs are somehow less safe than government and industry.  That's why I will get a little defensive here.  Academia is not the same as it was when we were in school.  Part of them not listening to recommendations in my dept is because we have come so far that it is getting harder to find places for improvement, so recommendations at this point are mostly beyond requirements.  And they see me being possibly stolen away from them to be put in an administrative dept so they are trying to protect how everything is right now and I have to have a little more back up in any restrictive feedback that I give, such as this one.  There is no regulation or University policy saying that they can't buy 20L of solvent.  But I do need to make sure that they store and handle them safely if I haven't convinced them that it is best for them to not do so.  While I obviously cannot speak for all academic labs, I can say that my labs are doing a lot better than what many people envision due to this belief.  I attribute this to the fact that I am at a PUI where much more of the work is done in teaching labs than in research labs.  While my faculty aren't listening to recommendations I have been making recently, I am still quite proud of the climate of safety we have in my department.  Faculty talk about it, students talk about it, everyone talks about it.  And, I am not just saying that they give it lip service and meet the bare minimums of regulations.  They THINK about safety as part of any of their work!  We do better than just what is required; we do what we can recognize as best for our students, instructors, and institution.  The students even correct ME when they think I am being too nonchalant.


The recognition part is the key!  We are a small, "supposedly underfunded" institution (all institutions cry this at all points and still continue to do business) with an EHS dept of two people who don't have a very solid lab foundation, so I am the one they rely on for all things lab.  And that is good, it is my job.  I recognize that I have not worked with every chemical in every environment or used every process that I will encounter.  I am trained as a biochemist and we never use bulk solvents in our labs (unless you count buffer, they need to start selling buffers in drums J).  But, ever since I can remember, I have always been good at knowing what resources I have available to me and how to use them.  That is why I am quite confident in doing my job: I have this amazing group at my fingertips!  So, when I know enough to know that large quantities of flammables require grounding and bonding for transfer I refer to the regulations. But, when the regulations tell me to ground and bond containers of flammables without giving any reference to amounts or types of containers and I know that I am quite confident in pouring acetone from a 4L glass bottle to a plastic wash bottle or whatever without even knowing how I would ground something when I am on the fifth floor, I come to this group to try to get clarification from those with more experience and expertise with this situation when I have suddenly scaled up to a 20L can transfer.  No, I do not have any personal authority to close someone's lab.  But, I do have the systems and level of institutional-wide respect in place that I do not find the need for such authority.  If needed, I would not hesitate to challenge anyone's authority over a safety matter.  I know plenty of others in academia that would do the same.  It only took one act of blatant sexism ignoring my knowledge in the workplace to put me into the mindset to NEVER back down from what I know again.


I have started watching the trends in chemical safety incidents and am pretty close to having enough evidence to personally believe that industry has more chemical safety incidents per user than academia, which should be surprising considering that academia has amateurs handling the chemicals by its very nature while one would expect industry to have individuals with more training.  The fact that I can find no required public reporting system for incidents involving students that are not employees is making this more difficult than you could imagine.  If you could help me find a way to advocate for such a thing, please contact me directly.


Once again, I appreciate your concern.  And, I hope that you would use any authority you have to support someone who was living in the academic situation that you are probably imagining.  I just don't think that the scenario is as common and as dire as a lot of people think and regret that my own words may have contributed to this viewpoint.  As many on this list know, I truly put one of my own biggest treasures, my daughter, into my colleagues' hands at a younger than usual age as I knew with all my heart and mind that it was as safe as I could get for her to study as a chemist.  Not a single one of the other schools that she has visited for fun or for her undergraduate or graduate studies have met her own personal level of lab safety and instruction let alone mine.  I feel sorry for the shock that may hit whatever advisor she selects for her PhD when she starts pointing it all out!





From: ACS Division of Chemical Health and Safety [mailto:DCHAS-L**At_Symbol_Here**PRINCETON.EDU] On Behalf Of Alan Hall
Sent: Friday, May 18, 2018 10:30 AM
Subject: Re: [DCHAS-L] 20L Drums of Flammables






Right on!



Alan H. Hall, M.D.

Medical Toxicologist



On Thu, May 17, 2018 at 2:19 PM, Roger McClellan <roger.o.mcclellan**At_Symbol_Here**> wrote:

To all:

   I am pleased to note so many individuals have offered advice to Monique Wilhelm on  the issue of purchasing, storage and use of organic solvents and re-sue of metal containers.


 However, I am disappointed at the lack of comment on the much bigger issue of the lack of authority of a safety officer and faculty IGNORING ALL SAFETY REGULATIONS. This apparently applies to the Head of the Department who is clearly lacking in understanding of their legal responsibilities to provide support for the Department's designated safety officer. I am offering this comment now because I have noted many similar situations on this web site over the past decade. Why are senior individuals in this Division unwilling to confront the apparent "status quo" that gives lip status to the role of safety officers in academic departments?


I offer my comments having served as the senior individual responsible for the overall operations, including health, safety and environmental issues, for two major laboratories. One was the Lovelace Inhalation Toxicology Research Institute  (ITRI) with over 200 staff that was Government Owned , Contractor Operated facility for the Department of Energy. We conducted research on numerous radionuclides including Pu-239 and many potentially hazardous chemicals. We had a full time HSE staff of 5 or more individuals and a full-time on site nurse .  The other organization I served as President, CEO and Chief Scientific Officer was the Chemical Industry Institute of Toxicology (CIIT) in Research Triangle Park, NC with a staff of over 150 individuals supported by private sector companies. At CIIT, we studied a wide range of potentially hazardous chemicals. We had a full time HSE staff of at least 4 individuals.


At both institutions the HSE operations reported directly to me as the Laboratory Director.  These were well trained and certified individuals , and appropriately compensated individuals that other organizations routinely attempted to hire way. The Head of HSE in both cases was delegated full responsibility and authority for maintaining a safe work environment for all employees.. This included full authority to see that ALL HSE procedures were followed including the authority to shut down any unsafe operation and "lock out" the laboratory. This extended to oversight of every laboratory employee irrespective of their "rank or status". One of most useful approaches used was a cross laboratory advisory committee of professionals and technicians that conducted regular inspections of every laboratory and operating facility. No one wanted their laboratory to be tagged and shut down as unsafe. We had regular inspections by government authorities. The outcomes were usually positive and helpful. They routinely commented on the unusual situation in which the HSE unit had so much authority and reported to the Laboratory Director. I routinely reported on the status of our HSE operations to the Chair of the Board of Directors, my annual evaluation  by the Board included HSE operations


I suspect at this point many of you are thinking -- well, McClellan was not in an academic institution and does not know what he is talking about. I am sorry, if that is your view. The world is changing and academic officials have to begin recognizing they have really responsibilities for all aspects of an Institution's operation including ethical behavior and HSE operations. If in doubt, check the media reports on an Institution in search of $ 500 million to settle law suits for unethical and inappropriate behavior and lack of institutional oversight.


I feel sorry for  many "safety officers" in many academic departments, colleges and universities that are given limited authority by "higher ups" and looked down on by faculty members as a nuisance. Why does the profession tolerate this situation? These individuals serve a valuable role as team members to ensure the health and safety of all employees. I suggest the time  is over due for the DCHAS and the ACS Board to indicate they are really serious about Health and Safety and willing to offer meaningful guidance for the responsibility of faculty and staff and, most importantly, the role of safety officers. The lip service approaches of the past are no longer acceptable.


I welcome your responses and , most of all, your  actions. It is important to maintain dialogue on day to day operational issues, but , the elephant in the room can not be ignored any longer!


For improved health and safety operations.


Roger O. McClellan, DVM, MMS, DSc (Honorary)

Long time ACS and DCHAS Member

Diplomate - ABVT and ABT


Member - National Academy of Medicine

Advisor, Toxicology and Human Health Risk Analysis

Albuquerque, NM 87111



On Thursday, May 17, 2018 2:13 AM, "Wilhelm, Monique" <mwilhelm**At_Symbol_Here**UMFLINT.EDU> wrote:



This is so true.  But, it is just a phase the faculty are going through because of some changes pushed down from the administration. When they come back down from this trauma and remember that I am on their side, I want to be prepared to lead them in the proper direction.

Sent from my Verizon, Samsung Galaxy smartphone

-------- Original message --------
From: davivid <davivid**At_Symbol_Here**WELL.COM>
Date: 5/16/18 6:53 PM (GMT-05:00)
Subject: Re: [DCHAS-L] 20L Drums of Flammables

On 16/5/18 1:14 PM, Wilhelm, Monique wrote:
> My faculty are ignoring all safety recommendations lately

Monique, It sounds like there are larger problems here than the solvent

Dave Lane
Clavis Technology Development

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