Debbie Knight

Annual lab safety training not taken lightly in my lab

In lab safety on December 21, 2012 at 11:00 am

safety training

Every year the labs at my university are required to review laboratory safety.

Not a bad idea.

Sometimes we need a reminder just what we should (and shouldn’t be) doing in the lab to be safe.

For example, someone on campus placed a shelf in a metal cabinet specially designed for chemical storage. The shelf seemed to fit but because it was from a different manufacture, it actually didn’t. The shelf fell onto the shelf below. Glass bottles broke. And chemicals mixed that shouldn’t have mixed.

The result? A lab fire.

Here’s a photo that Environmental Health and Safety posted in its newsletter.

lab fire aftermath

Not a pretty sight.

That’s why reviewing lab safety is so important — to prevent such devastating lab accidents.

In my lab, the training duties fall on me.

Happy, happy, joy, joy for me.

We cover general lab safety such as where the fire extinguishers and eye wash stations are located (it’s not like they’ve moved since last year, but it’s a good reminder).

We cover chemical safety as well as biological safety.

And, because we sometimes work with radioactive materials, we review how to safely handle radioactivity.

Every year I pull out the folder with the handouts and quizzes.

And every year I’ve considered paring them down. Cutting corners.

But when I start to look for what I could whittle out, I find that everything covered in these handouts is pretty important and should stay.

In addition to the handouts, there’s a presentation – something I hate giving, even though it’s informal.

One of my office mates said he just gives his lab a brief handout and a short quiz. No presentation. If his lab returns their quiz, they get automatically get a 100%. He doesn’t even look at their answers. Zip-zop, it’s done.

I don’t subscribe to this method of training.

There’s no guarantee the handout is read thoroughly.

I find that people tend to scan the handout for the quiz answers, leaving the rest unread. (And yes, I have been guilty of this as well).

The handout gets chucked into a dark desk corner never to be looked at again.

Yes, I’m a safety nut (you would know this especially if you read my other lab safety posts).

I run a pretty tight ship when it comes to safety.

I certainly don’t want any accidents happening on my watch — especially if it is due to simple negligence.

It would reflect poorly on me, the lab safety officer, as well as my boss.

But it’s not all drudgery.

There is a silver lining.

The training coincides with the lab’s holiday lunch!

A great way to take the “ugh!” out of the training.

And a great incentive to finish the open-note quiz quickly.  🙂


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