10 Jun 2015

Safety is job one.

Submitted by Sheila Smith, University of Michigan- Dearborn

Watching (and snickering at) Bill Tolman's parody video for Lab safety inspired me to think more about how I present safety to my students (in both teaching labs and research labs).  I'm going to retread a few ideas that Anne Bentley wrote about in this blog, but we could probably all use to think about safety more).

In our general chemistry labs, I fear that we go too far, and leave students unnecessarily terrified of chemicals, but also ill-equipped to make safety decisions on their own in later courses and in research since too many decisions are taken out of their hands in early labs.  ["Put this here. NO, NOT THERE!, HERE!!] Furthermore, teaching freshmen that they need gloves to handle table vinegar may lead some to dismiss our warnings as an impeding threat of atmospheric collapse [THE SKY IS FALLING!].

We have a new campus safety officer who is working to create a much more rigorous culture of safety in the labs; I'm sure this is happening on all our campuses, especially in light of recent tragic events in chemistry labs across the country.  U. of Michigan  (and by extension, U of M-Dearborn) is moving to require much more safety training documentation than ever in the undergraduate research labs.  I am hopeful that this can be done in online modules and extended to the teaching laboratories too.  For the moment, though, I have been made responsible for creating or gathering SOPs for my own laboratory into one place.  

I started here with a collection of the resources already on VIPER.

As I create or locate more, I will add them as web-resources and add them to the collection.  I'd love any help I can get.