BITeS

21 Jan 2019

Sustaining a culture of safety

Submitted by Kyle Grice, DePaul University

Part of teaching and research in chemistry is learning about and implementing chemical safety. Safety often becomes reactionary, where some large accident occurs (e.g. Sheri Sanji’s death from a tBuLi fire, Thea Ekins-Coward losing an arm in a hydrogen explosion, Preston Brown losing fingers from a hydrazine/perchlorate compound) and then everyone starts being more diligent for a while. However, as time goes by it is easy for people to become more relaxed. More effort is needed to make safety an integral part of the daily operations of all chemists so that we don’t become complacent and slack on safety. The key is to think about safety just as much as you would for reaction setup and compound characterization. It needs to be part of the regular process of learning about and doing chemistry.

 

This recent article from Prof. Alex Miller from UNC Chapel Hill and Prof. Ian Tonks at Minnesota is a really valuable step forward in the direction of better safety:

“Let’s Talk About Safety: Open Communication for Safer Laboratories”

https://pubs.acs.org/doi/10.1021/acs.organomet.8b00627

They’ve created “The Safety Net”, a place to share safety information. It has everything from SOPs to lab safety signs to info on what gloves protect against what solvents: http://safetynet.web.unc.edu/

 

Here at IONiC VIPEr we are also dedicated to increasing the discussion and knowledge of safety.

We’ve posted about safety in BiTes before:

2014: https://www.ionicviper.org/blog-entry/cause-your-friends-dont-dance-and-if-they-dont-dance-well-theyre-no-friends-mine

2015: https://www.ionicviper.org/blog-entry/safety-job-one

2017: https://www.ionicviper.org/blog-entry/playing-it-safe and https://www.ionicviper.org/blog-entry/playing-it-safe-part-two

 

We have several Learning Objects related to safety. Professor Sheila Smith from UM-Dearborn has compiled them into a collection:

https://www.ionicviper.org/collection/sheilas-safety-net

 

We also have a forum discussion about including safety in lab notebooks for our students: https://www.ionicviper.org/forum-topic/safety-and-waste-disposal-lines-notebook-records

 

And a forum about how to engineer safety into our daily practices:

https://www.ionicviper.org/forum-topic/student-dies-laboratory-accident

 

We all have anecdotal safety stories from our past or things we’ve heard that we share at meetings or to our friends, but its important to turn these anecdotes into a productive, ongoing conversation on safety. We hope that you, as a member of the chemical community, can be a part of this conversation. Share your knowledge. Here on VIPEr you can post in the forums, or create an LO based on what you have done to try to improve safety where you work. Your input is valuable and will help improve the safety of others.

 

We look forward to having this conversation with you.

 

Be safe.