Debbie Knight

Lab pranks not always safe

In research log on August 29, 2011 at 12:23 pm


The other day, I received some lab supplies shipped in dry ice. And in the above video, you can see just what I did with that dry ice.

This brought back memories of some pranks a former labmate used to pull in the lab.

My labmate, usually a serious guy in the lab setting, would take a plastic microcentrifuge tube (such as the one in the video above), put a little dry ice in it, and place it somewhere near one of his labmates (such as me). By the time the little dry ice “bomb” went off, he was long gone. Hearing his laughter from the other room was the only clue he was the prankster. I was just glad I didn’t have a heart attack when the tube exploded. Or that I wasn’t beaned by the projectile tube as the lid flew in one direction and the tube flew in the other.

A colleagues told me he once put dry ice in a larger tube (like the one above) and placed it lid-side down on the bench. When this dry ice bomb went off, it shot off like a rocket, punching a hole in the ceiling tile as it soared into the space above the ceiling tiles. He showed me the tile, it was impressive (but always the safety officer, I thought of a million ways that something could have gone wrong)

Yes, scientists are people who sometimes like to have fun when they do science. Sometimes the “experiment” just happens to involve doing something that might not be very safe.

For example, in a friend’s lab, her graduate student pulled a prank on her. He walked by her bench, squirted some alcohol on her lab bench and ignited it with the bunsen burner. The flames burned out quickly (kind of like a dish served flambe in a restaurant). But what concerned me was that the prankster hadn’t considered the papers that were also laying on the bench — which could easily have caught on fire.

Pranks are fun … until someone gets hurt.

I’m sure that Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) would have something to say about the lack of safety in performing such an “experiment” like the one shown in the video. Although you can’t see the videographer, I can tell you she wasn’t wearing protective eyewear (unless the camera counts), gloves, or labcoat. Nor was she wearing a bullet-proof vest when this “experiment” was performed.

Tsk, tsk. You’d think the lab safety officer would know better!


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