K N and P J Harris
ecoli at cix.compulink.co.uk
Wed Oct 15 16:36:11 EST 1997
I agree that modern pipetting devices with sterile disposable tips have
made many of these operations very much more safe and have rendered
mouth pipetting a thing of the past. There was however a nasty
intermediate period when dreadful gadgets were "stuck" on the end of
glass pipettes in the interests of "perceived safety" and did just the
reverse. Our laboratory accident book rapidly filled with incidents of
glass pipettes breaking and causing nasty wounds when students attempted
to apply the "aid". There were no similar quantities of mouth
pipetting accidents. They were unreliable and caused lots of spillage
due to leaking.
There is however a fallacy in the assumption that all practical science
can in some way be rendered totally risk free. Many student scientists
are being trained for research. By definition, research is the
examination of the unknown. The unknown is risky.
What is being lost in all the dumbing-down of current science teaching
is respect for the innate properties of materials, some of them
dangerous, but which we have struggled for years to handle.
If the safety requirements now being expected of University Science
teaching were applied to the construction industry, no new buildings
would ever be erected. If applied to the road we would all drive at 2mph
in vehicles surrounded by layers of foam rubber and only during daylight
I'm all for safety, but safety through knowledge not diktat.
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