Author: Daniel Kuespert

Laboratory Safety Advocate for the Johns Hopkins University Homewood Campus. I am a Ph.D. chemical engineer with experience in industrial research, nonprofit management, and chemical safety consulting. My role is to promote a culture of safety at Homewood by working with faculty, staff, and students to bring safety expertise into the laboratory.

Is your plastic gas tubing an over-inflated balloon?

Many labs use compressed gases, and often we use pressure regulators to step down the 2000-3000 psi in the cylinder to the use pressure. If the regulator can produce more than about 30 psi outlet, your plastic tubing might be in danger of rupture. Read more about how to fix this without buying a new $500 regulator in How to prevent plastic tubing rupture.

What eye protection do I use?

There are many different types of protective eyewear available, and each one is designed to protect against a different hazard. Having the wrong type of safety eyewear can be worse than not wearing eye protection at all. Learn about the basic types in Choosing eye protection.

This Hopkins Safety Note is the start of a series on eye protection, so look for future notes covering the different types in detail.

Don’t buy cheap lasers!

Recently, a researcher in MD Hall purchased two inexpensive “pointing lasers” over the Internet to use in an experiment.  Fortunately, before starting work with the lasers, the researcher consulted with the Laser Safety Advocate—who determined that the lasers were actually dangerous 1-watt infrared Class 4 lasers, and a serious threat to anyone in the room if they were used without controls. With a little 3-D printer magic, the LSA re-engineered the experimental apparatus so that the system was a safer Class 1, not even needing protective laser goggles. Read about the case in Class 4 pointing lasers.

Incident report: Fire, New Chemistry Bldg (Jun 2015)

A researcher finished flame-sealing an ampoule in a chemical fume hood, turning off the torch used and setting it down. While the researcher was storing the ampoule, the hot torch tip ignited a number of lab wipes and rubber stoppers that had been left in the hood, and the cotton insulation on a nearby solvent still containing 1-2L of highly flammable tetrahydrofuran (THF) also ignited.

Learn more about this incident, including lessons learned at Incident Fire NCB Jun2015

Incident report: Chemical exposure, Croft Hall, Oct 2014

During a lab move, a chemical container was moved to the wrong lab, where it remained for years. While the container read “Ethyl Alcohol” on the side, it actually contained chemical waste. Several years later, a student filled spray bottles with the contents of the container, and the lab used them for about a week to sanitize biological safety cabinets, equipment, hands, etc. Several researchers were exposed to the contents. Fortunately, analysis showed that the contents were water and a common solvent, and exposures were minimal.

Find out Lessons Learned and other information about this incident at Incident chemical exposure Croft Oct2014.

Incident report: Tank damage, Krieger Hall, May 2014

While performing experiments in a large water tank, a researcher placed an incandescent spotlight in front of a 2-inch thick Plexiglas observation window. During the experiments, the lamp slipped and came to rest against the window surface. The window melted one-third of the way through, compromising its mechanical integrity.

Learn more about this incident in Incident tank damage Krieger May2014.