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21
School Lab Safety
Management
Ronald Dotson
Lab safety is a function of managing hazardous materials and behavior-based safety
and the control of hazardous energy. Like any safety initiative, it requires compre-
hensive program management. A comprehensive program has seven key elements:
it has measurable goals, it utilizes a hierarchical level of positions with assigned
responsibilities, it tracks organizational experience, it investigates incidents, it uti-
lizes metrics for benchmarking, it involves all levels of the organization, and it has a
commitment to continual improvement. Comprehensive management is important to
lab safety because of the experimental nature of the work involved.
On January 7, 2010, a graduate student at Texas Tech University was severely
injured. His injuries included the loss of three ngers, burns to his hands and face,
and an eye injury. The researcher was working with a nickel hydrazine perchlo-
rate derivative. The project was investigating the nature of new potentially energetic
materials as research to be used by the Department of Homeland Security. Tests on
the substances required an amount of approximately 10 grams of material. A proce-
dure of using only 100 milligrams was established, and the immediate researchers
did not receive this communication. Rather than produce several batches of the sub-
stance, they decided to make a large batch in order to preserve the consistency and
reproducibility of the experiments. The injured researcher had begun to mix a large
batch of the substance. In small quantities, hexane or water prevented the substance
from igniting. The researcher assumed this would hold true for larger amounts as
well. Once the batch had been mixed, clumps were noticed, so the researcher trans-
ferred about half of the mixture into a mortar, added hexane, and began using a
pestle to break up the clumps. He initially wore his goggles properly, but when he
began mixing the substance in the mortar, he had his goggles on his forehead. The
substance ignited, resulting in his injuries (Chemical Safety Board, 2011).
CONTENTS
Managing Hazardous Materials .............................................................................244
Behavior-Based Safety Management .....................................................................246
Exposure and Hygiene Plans .................................................................................247
Chemical Hygiene Plans ........................................................................................247
Case Study ............................................................................................................. 251
Exercises ................................................................................................................252
References ..............................................................................................................252

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