This learning object is designed to spark discussion and educate students taking an inorganic chemistry course about laboratory safety. It uses the article "Learning from UCLA" by Jyllian N. Kemsley (Chemical & Engineering News (2009), Vol. 87 Issue 31, pp. 29-31, 33-34), which describes the events that led up to the tragic death of a researcher at UCLA. I do this learning object during the first laboratory meeting of the semester after checking the students into lab and going over the course syllabus and laboratory rules. Students are given the article and a worksheet with discussion questions related to the article before class. Since most students in my classes have not yet had experience with the air-sensitive techniques discussed in this article, we first do an activity called "Introduction to the Schlenk Line," which is designed to acquaint students with basic air-sensitive techniques such as syringe and cannula transfer using water and provide context for the procedures described in the article. This activity also helps familiarize students with the Schlenk line, which they use in the next week's experiment. After students complete the "Introduction to the Schlenk Line" activity, we have a class discussion about laboratory safety using "Learning from UCLA" and the worksheet as a jumping-off point. Since many students go on to work in the chemical industry or in a laboratory in graduate school, I hope this activity will help remind them of the importance of laboratory safety throughout their career in addition to this class.
Students will be able to:
1) articulate the importance of observing safety rules and regulations in the laboratory.
2) describe correct techniques for handling air-sensitive liquids, especially pyrophoric liquids, and explain the rationale behind these techniques.
3) explain the procedures to follow if an accident in the laboratory occurs.
4) discuss laboratory and institutional policies to protect the safety of laboratory workers.
Below is a list of equipment used in the "Introduction to the Schlenk Line" activity. However, this LO could also be conducted without the equipment listed below if the "Introduction to the Schlenk Line" component is omitted. In its place, the instructor could show a video on pyrophoric liquid safety.
two Schlenk flasks and septa per group
one syringe per group
one 12-24" needle per group
one cannula needle per group
Schlenk line set-up (I usually use one Schlenk line for every two groups of students.)
liquid nitrogen or other coolant for cold trap
I do this learning object during the first laboratory meeting of the semester after checking the students into lab and going over the course syllabus and laboratory rules. This activity could also be done without the "Introduction to the Schlenk Line" component. In its place, the instructor could show a video on pyrophoric liquid safety.
I do not give students a formal grade for this activity. While we do discuss proper technique for the handling of air-sensitive liquids in this learning object, as was mentioned in the "Pyrophorics Liquid Safety Video" L.O. by Dr. Adam R. Johnson, I still watch students very closely when they are working with air-sensitive reagents in subsequent experiments.