EtBr safety procedures

C.J. O'Kelly COKelly at massey.ac.nz
Tue Jun 15 15:44:26 EST 1993


Emily -

sounds like you've gone from a good UK lab to a bad US one.  I reckon
you'll discover there's a lot more variability than you think, and that
the US and UK standards of deviation overlap ...

how long have you been in the US anyway?  perhaps not long enough to
become aware of this prevalent academic legend:

"we have a choice.  we can tip it down the drain and into the river
ourselves, or we can spend large amounts of time to collect the stuff,
and huge amounts of money to pay a bureaucracy to tip it down the drain
and into the river."

I don't think the "official" US standards are any different from the UK
ones; the US ones may even be stricter.  But regulation costs time and
money.

Maybe you'll remember that the UK paid for its regulatory stance by
shutting down whole universities (at least as far as research is
concerned) and thus reducing its costs.

No way the US can or will attempt any such thing, it trusts "the market"
to regulate.  "The lab that is sloppy with safety standards will be
sloppy in other ways, this sloppiness will either adversely affect the
quality of its product so that eventually it will fail to be competitive
with the products of its competitors, or it will induce its workforce to
withdraw its labor, directly or indirectly [eg by calling in the
regulators], and thus bring the house down".

This is the way American citizens want it.  Sic.  If the majority wanted
it otherwise, it would be otherwise.  And by "wanting it" I mean being
able to bear the increased costs, diminished speed of work and other
related consequences of getting it.  All the squealing and placard-
bearing in the world means exactly nothing, 'cause when it hits the
grant budget the attitude magically shifts 180 degrees and everybody
'cept the placard carriers knows that this is what will happen.

So.  (1) You can grin and bear it and risk a stress-related illness.
(2) You can practice "safe lab" yourself and hope it catches on (be damn
sure you know your safety stuff so you can convince [NB; no browbeating]
others you know the score and are not just saying "my old lab did it
better so there").  (3) You can win yourself a stress-related illness by
confronting the boss.  (4) You can risk personal destruction for no gain
by crusading.  Or (5) you can find another job.  I recommend (2),
followed by (5) if (2) fails [see "withdrawal of labor", above, if
you're concerned about the continuation of the bad practices ... I'm
sure you wouldn't then be shy about letting the story get out :) ].

Charley O'Kelly
Mad Phycologist

-- 

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* Charles J. O'Kelly		                                       *
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