Laboratory Safety

Karl Roberts kr1 at PGSTUMAIL.PG.CC.MD.US
Thu Oct 16 06:41:51 EST 1997

Dear Peter,
	Very interesting perspective. You do have some good points to
make, but the issue is not perception with regards to laboratory safety.
I do agree, conditions in the past were much more hazardous than they are
today, but it is our responsibility as instructors to maintain a safe
working environment and make our students aware of safety considerations
both for themselves and their fellows.  I do not advocate forcing
unnecessary precaution, but I do stress that an awareness of potential
hazards coupled with good, sound preventive antiseptic and aseptic
technique is important, to health and well-being.  Thanks for your
Karl J. Roberts, Ph.D.
Maryland, USA

On Wed, 15 Oct 1997, K N and P J Harris wrote:

> Lab Safety,
> 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 
> hours.
> Peter Harris,
> Reading University,
> UK.
> I'm all for safety, but safety through knowledge not diktat.

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