March 05, 2010

Ensure that no one is ever injured...

Two years after retiring from active laboratory safety activities and upon leaving the lab safety discussion list, Dave Andrews wrote the following reminder to his colleagues:

"Fellow laboratory safety specialists: As we part company, I feel I must, for one final time, remind each of you in an academic setting that the lessons that you teach in your classes and your labs will be the habits that your charges will carry forward into industry.

If you teach safety and then allow other than 100% compliance with safe work practices in your laboratory spaces, your charges will go forth from your classes and routinely bypass safety rules and you may, one day, wonder why one of your smartest students died in a laboratory accident.

Make sure every rule in your laboratory is based on sound science and then enforce them 100% of the time for every student – and, most important, for your own work in the laboratory.

Make sure your students know that laboratory clothing and safety equipment makes no fashion statement, but is required for entrance into the lab.  Do not allow any laboratory activity to proceed without a procedure.  Remember that legal requirements are the absolute minimum you must do in your lab – the rules in your lab must be based on what is necessary to ensure that no one is ever injured by the activities conducted in your laboratories and that no one outside your laboratories has any exposure to any of the chemicals within your labs."

(Dave's response to my request for permission to reprint his words:  “Of course!  My goal is now, and has been, doing whatever is necessary to protect the American worker – especially when working with hazardous chemicals.  If these words will save one burnt finger, then they are well worth posting.  You have my permission to use them in any way you determine to be useful." Dave Andrews, 3/13/09)

Addition words of wisdom from Dave:

·         If your management cannot/will not support safety in your lab – QUIT – the job is not worth the potential grief and guilt that awaits you!

·         If you knew an employee (student) was going to have an accident in the lab tomorrow, would you be willing to fire them(remove them) today?

·         Students entering a laboratory training program should have an entrance project to research rule, prudent practices, and injury reports and develop a set of safety rules for the lab – this will grant ownership of the rules to the students.  This is not an easy job for you!

·         Safety glasses are for when no activities are going on in the laboratory – when chemicals are being used, goggles are a minimum – face shields are not eye protection – safety glasses or goggles must be worn when using a face shield.

·         Personal protective clothing is not impervious to hazardous chemicals – their only intended function is to provide reaction time – If you get splashed with chemicals , the job stops, the PPC comes off, and corrective measure begin.

·         All severely hazardous chemical splashes require use of the safety shower and removal of affected clothing – No she cannot go down to the locker room and shower there!!!

·         Compliance with applicable regulations cannot be a goal – they are a requirement for operations – the absolute minimum necessary.  You must evaluate ALL the hazards and select protective measure that will always protect the student.

·         Every injury, splash(even if no injury) or other incident in the laboratory requires evaluation and either changing the rules, increasing the frequency and intensity of training or discipline.  (Oh, and discipline is not the real answer – as all incidents are a direct result of inadequate management!)
-- Dave Andrews, CHMM (now expired)
  • Radiation Safety Officer and manager safety, health and Environment at one of the largest contract non-clinical laboratories in the world.  
  • Consultant/Instructor, Environmental & Occupational Consulting and Training, Inc
  • Instructor, Chemistry, Safety, Radiation Safety, and Environmental at a Nuclear Electric Generation plant
  • All of that without so much as a formal semester of college training, though I did take and pass (3.5) a post graduate level Toxicology class.