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Adam R. Johnson, Harvey Mudd College
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Joined: 11/17/2007 - 10:55am

Student dies in laboratory accident

A student at Yale apparently died yesterday in the Chemistry department.  Details are still very vague, but it seems like her long hair was pulled into a lathe. 

http://www.yaledailynews.com/news/2011/apr/13/student-dies-accident-ster...

A sad reminder of the importance of safety and good laboratory practices (note, there is no information at this time about whether she was in fact following good practices and just had an accident or not). 

My laboratory manual states "Long hair must be tied back."

Adam

Nicholas Kingsley, University of Michigan-Flint
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Joined: 01/17/2011 - 1:02pm

Adam,

 I saw this today and it is tragic.  I always tell my students that sometimes it is the most mundane safety detail that can lead to the biggest accidents.  I always harp on my students with long hair to have it tied back so it doesn't fall into chemicals or say a bunsen flame. 

 I really hope that this tragedy makes schools/students who don't always use good lab practices to reevaluate their practices.  You can never be too safe when working in the lab.  

 

Nick

Sibrina Collins, The Charles H. Wright of Museum of African American History
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Last seen: 2 years 3 months ago
Joined: 01/17/2009 - 10:29pm

I shared this with my colleagues. Tragic story...

Sibrina 

henry, graguate
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Joined: 07/26/2012 - 6:33am

A matter of big sorrow..I'm feeling sad for the girl...And after this tragic Incidence I suggest you that when you are performing any experiment in the laboratory then please handle the chemiclas very carefully..Tie up your hairs back... Proper safety should be taken by you.......

 

 

 

Kyle Grice, DePaul University
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Joined: 07/22/2010 - 5:29pm

Hi All,

I thought I would bump this topic up just to talk about safety again. We try to instill good safety habits in our students, and I am always looking for ways to make my research lab safer for my undergraduates. I tell them about all of these cases (this one, UCLA, etc) to try to instill just how dangerous things are in labs.

I decided to not use thin-walled NMR tubes and just use medium-walled ones because they are more robust, don't chip at the top, and can be more easily flame-sealed. I had to get stitches when I was an undergrad because I sliced my knuckle open with a broken NMR tube and I don't want that to happen to my students. 

I also try to use activated 3A mol seives instead of sodium or other reactive drying agents so that I don't have to worry about their hazards (especially during quenching or if the flask breaks). They work just as well according to this article: http://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/jo101589h

As professors, have you made any specific changes to make your lab safer? 

Cheers,

Kyle

Anne Bentley, Lewis & Clark College
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Joined: 04/01/2008 - 8:09pm

Kyle, I like your examples of ways that we can "engineer" the lab procedures (and supplies) to keep our students safer.  Broken glass must be one of the most common of lab accidents, because I can think of at least three examples from my own experience.  (No cuts for me, but for those I know.)

We do the nickelocene-Diels Alder adduct lab in my inorganic course, which involves measuring out nickelocene in the glove box and then using Schlenk line, freeze-pump-thaw, and cannula transfer techniques to add DMAD dissolved in THF (outside of the glove box).  I explain to my students what I see as the value of the experiment (all inorganic students should get an understanding of air-free techniques), and we work in very small groups (me and two students) at the Schlenk lines.  We follow step-by-step instructions that I have prepared and printed out for everyone, because I don't work with the Schlenk line often enough to have it be second nature.  I worry that this lab is perpetually on the proverbial chopping block because of the amount of instructor attention I feel it requires.  Last fall I had 10 students in the course, and it took some creative scheduling to get everyone a chance to do it.  If enrollment stays high, we might have to lose this experiment, which would be a real shame.

What kinds of green chemistry innovations have people applied to inorganic or general chem labs? 

Stay tuned for a BITeS blog post about safety later today...