BITeS

2 Mar 2017

Playing it safe

Submitted by Sheila Smith, University of Michigan- Dearborn

I've been thinking a lot about how we teach chemical safety lately.  As I set up a new laboratory at UM Dearborn, a decade and a half into my independent career, I am trying to take the opportunity to make my workspace  and my work habits safer, both for myself and for the next generation of students who will move through my lab.  At the same time, I am on sabbatical at Wayne State University this year, and was forced... er... erm... given the opportunity to participate in their safety training recently.  I hate to admit it but I learned a lot.

At our University, we use a really old (I think we just moved it from VHS to CD recently) chemical safety video from ACS for the frosh.  The issue here is that if the students are so busy making fun of the clothes and the hair (although admittedly bell-bottoms have come and gone again in the time I have taught here), maybe they aren't taking the warnings seriously.  As much as I hate to create more work for myself, I think I have come to agree with leaders like Bill Tolman (http://tinyurl.com/hz5oso3and the APLU (http://tinyurl.com/zlv9u46) when they say that safety starts with us.  

One of the things, that WSU used was a newer video from the Chemical Safety Board that focused on the 2008 UCLA incident that took the life of undergraduate student “Sheri” Sangji, and the Texas Tech incident that seriously injured a graduate student.  The video is very well done.  

It will become a standard part of my intake of new undergraduate researchers into my own laboratory and to my advanced undergraduate teaching laboratory.

There's a new LO that features a "safeShare" link so that you can use it in your classroom without the Youtube ads and extraneous links and pop-ups. 

 

Comments

One of the coauthor on Tolman's paper is a cousin of mine. I do a lot of green chemistry so I have changed my approach for the last decade to safety from minimizing liability to an educational approach. My emphasis is on student conduct in a laboratory setting. Part of the lab grade is on laboratory practices.

Sounds like there is an LO in that!

We also use that mid-90s ACS video, and it's especially painful when you teach multiple sections of lab and need to watch it multiple times.  Do you have a link to the CSB video?  (Or maybe I am missing it.)

I agree that it's hard to strike the right balance between fear and safe practices, but probably better to err on the responsible side in terms of setting a good example for the students by taking it very seriously.