Monday, May 11, 2009

A sobering reminder ...

... to those of us who work (and more importantly supervise those who work) in the lab. It's not child's play, people can get hurt and sometimes killed.
Among the findings of the October lab inspection was that PPE was not fully used in the lab in which the 23-year-old Sangji worked. She was not wearing a lab coat in December when pyrophoric material she was handling splashed and ignited her clothing.

The Cal/OSHA report says that, when the incident occurred, Sangji was drawing approximately 20 mL of 1.7 mol/L tert-butyllithium in pentane into a 60-mL syringe when the syringe plunger was either ejected or pulled out of the syringe. An undetermined amount of the liquid splashed onto her hands, arms, and torso. The ensuing fire burned more than 40% of her body. One of the postdoctoral researchers used his lab coat to extinguish the flames and called for help. Sangji died of her injuries on Jan. 16 (C&EN Online Latest News, Jan. 22).
Safety standards, and safety issues are not something to be brushed aside as trivial. Sometimes, it is the difference between life and death.


Mad Hatter said...

Holy shit! I have no idea what tert-butyllithium is, but it sounds like it set her on fire. I totally agree PPE should always be worn, but would a lab coat really have protected her? I don't think ours, at least, are flame-resistant.

Tom said...

Quite a few lab coats nowadays are fire resistant. Of course, given their lab, I'm assuming they had fire resistant lab coats, since it's not really PPE unless it actually protects you from specific dangers in your lab. If so, the coat should have afforded her enough protection to get the coat off and/or get to a safety shower if necessary.

microbiologist xx said...

Holy shit is right. I just read the article you linked to and I have to agree that safety does probably lag in academic labs. In my old and new department hardly anyone wears a lab coat. I've had the whole PPE thing drilled into me from working on a select agent, so I feel weird if I am in the lab and don't have on a lab coat. I will admit though, I rarely wear safety glasses, unless I am in a BSL3 where it is absolutely required.
Man, that is just awful.

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