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Safety

Preventing lab accidents

November 7, 2016 | APPEARED IN VOLUME 94, ISSUE 44

ACS District I Director Laura Pence is to be complimented for her fine ACS Comment titled “Chemical Safety Is Always in Season” (C&EN, Oct. 10, page 35). Concern for the welfare of both students and faculty safety in the laboratory, where there is exposure to unfamiliar materials, equipment, and processes, cannot not be overemphasized in the academic environment.

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I do take exception to Pence’s argument that “too often we send a message to students that we need to behave safely to avoid getting in trouble.” In fact, I would propose just the opposite. Having worked 40 years in three different industrial lab environments, I can say the basic and primary safety goal was to always leave work as healthy as you started the day in the lab. One would think that this would be sufficient motivation for all lab workers to meticulously follow all safety rules and adhere to a first-class safety culture. However, we know otherwise.

For a wide range of reasons, whether a lack of training, carelessness, or blatant disregard for well-communicated safety rules, accidents in the lab will sadly continue. My experience as a lab manager has shown that when consequences are well articulated and executed in response to a safety violation—whether or not there was an injury—this can be an effective deterrent to the next person who dares to mouth a pipette, perform a reaction outside a proper functioning hood, or even repeatedly not wear the required personal protective equipment called for in a standard operating procedure. The warning road signs in certain parts of Canada, where the fines for speeding are posted, can be a good example of understanding the consequences of poor safety practices.

Ara A. Jeknavorian
Chelmsford, Mass.

 


Corrections

Sept. 26, page 13: In the news story about Sarepta Therapeutics receiving approval for a new Duchenne muscular dystrophy drug, the phosphorodiamidate morpholino oligomer structure was drawn incorrectly. The phosphoroamidate bond should go to the ring carbon next to the morpholine oxygen, not to the oxygen.

Oct. 3, page 46: Bristol-Myers Squibb didn’t acquire Galecto Biotech and Promedior but rather signed agreements giving it the right to buy the two firms.

Oct. 10, page 18: The feature story about the Institute of Chemistry of the Chinese Academy of Sciences incorrectly stated that the organization’s 2015 budget was 686 CNY. It was 686 million CNY, or ~$103 million.

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