Month: June 2021

Quality Data for Safer Experiments

It is well understood that, especially in our digital era, proper collection and distribution of data is paramount for good science. This concept is especially important for data concerning safety analysis such as risk assessments and lessons learned reports.  

The following video released by the American Chemical Society (ACS) provides a fantastic introduction to this topic and contributes to our motto that safe science is good science.  

For further resources, visit the ACS Division of Chemical Health and Safety’s Quality Data for Safer Experiments page.  

Periodic Table of the Elements of Safety

The American Chemical Society (ACS) Division of Chemical Health and Safety has recently partnered with the Princeton University Department of Environmental Health and Safety to publish an updated version of the Periodic Table of the Elements of Safety. 

This interactive table, available to download in various sizes and formats, highlights some of the main hazard categories, risk assessment techniques, PPE, the Hierarchy of Controls, and other interesting information such as Safety Martyrs and Heroes. We encourage you to check out and share this valuable resource. 

Schenk Line Usage

Air and moisture sensitive experiments are a valuable part of inorganic chemistry. Tools such as the Schenk Line, a vacuum manifold connected to a vacuum pump, paired with an inert gas manifold connected to a source of purified and dry inert gas vented through a bubbler, allow for such experiments to be more easily carried out. However, information regarding the usage of this tool can be difficult to locate and access. 

To address this, Andryj Borys has released the Schlenk Line Survival Guide. This comprehensive free guide covers basic operations including setting up the Schenk Line and “cycling” along with some more complex procedures. Any researchers interested in air and moisture experiments, especially those that require usage of the Schenk Line, should check out this resource. 

Introduction to Pressure Vessel Safety and Regulations

Pressure vessels are closed containers designed to hold materials under greater than atmospheric pressure. Due to the risk of potentially dangerous and destructive incidents caused by over pressurization, there are substantial regulations put in place by both the state of Maryland and the university itself, regulation that must be understood by all researchers interested in using this equipment.  

Main points regarding this regulation: 

  1. Maryland regulates boilers and pressure vessels with a few exceptions. (see pressure-vessel law details below). Noncompliance can draw a $5,000 fine, plus the risk to life, limb, and property from the possibly faulty pressure vessel.  
  1. Pressure vessels MUST be built to the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) Boiler and Pressure Vessel Code. Make sure you order an ASME-code vessel because, while some states allow non-code vessels, Maryland is not one of them. There are some exceptions for small, low-pressure vessels. 
  1. An ASME-code vessel will come with a nameplate bearing the manufacturer’s stamp (a “U” for unfired pressure vessels). There will also be a “U1A” data form; do not lose it because you are not permitted to operate the vessel (which includes leaving it under pressure) without the U1A. 
  1. All pressure vessels need appropriate pressure safety relief protection, usually in the form of a safety relief valve or a rupture disc (a scored metal diaphragm that bursts at a preset pressure). Consult a qualified mechanical or chemical engineer for assistance with this. 
  1. Pressure vessels must be inspected before use and every 2 years by an independent inspection agency. Contact Facilities to arrange this for your vessel. Note that the State of Maryland requires 30 days’ notice before issuing pressure vessel permits, so plan accordingly. 

Researchers should not order or commission a pressure vessel without first contacting Laboratory Safety Advocate Dr. Dan Kuespert at 410-516-5525 or [email protected], or Laser Safety Advocate Mr. Niel Leon at 913-302-8500 or [email protected]. 

Further Resources: 

How to be a Lab Safety Buddy

Many lab activities are hazardous, some sufficiently so that someone should be watching and standing by in case of emergency. Understand how to be a such a bystander, a lab safety buddyby recognizing your role(s) and obtaining appropriate safety training. 

A lab safety buddy may have a range of roles depending on the lab work being performed and its hazards. In some cases, a buddy may only be expected to call his or her partner at set intervals to check in, but with more hazardous work, a buddy may need to be present in the lab. Safe experimentation requires that you and the lab partner you’re “buddy-ing” with establish clear roles and communicate effectively.  

Your principal investigator will decide exactly which work requires the buddy system, but you and your partner can apply it to more lab activities if you wish.  

In addition to having a clear understanding of the experiment or activity being done, you and your buddy must have the proper safety training to deal with the accompanying hazards and respond to any incidents. This includes contacting Security at 410-516-7777 for emergency response, properly evacuating an affected area, recording all information pertaining to the incident, and contacting Health, Safety, and Environment at 410-516-8798 before re-entering the lab. 

If you have any questions about lab safety buddies, contact Dr. Daniel Kuespert, Homewood Laboratory Safety Advocate, at [email protected]. 

You Only Get One Pair (of Eyes)

The title says it all: The Hospital is out of stock on replacement eyeballs, so it falls to you to protect the ones you have. Fortunately, you have your last line of defense—your eye protection. Remember which types are for which hazards (links below are examples, not recommendations; contact me if you need help choosing safety eyewear):

  •       Safety glasses protect against impact.
  •       Direct-vent safety goggles also protect against impact. If you wear prescription glasses and don’t have prescription safety glasses, this is your best choice for impact.
  •       Indirect-vent chemical splash goggles protect against impact and chemical splash. These are your only appropriate choice when working with chemicals.

Chemical splash goggles are required when handling corrosive chemicals or any chemical labeled as a hazard to the eye (e.g., irritants). You may be able to use safety glasses with mild chemicals such as buffer solutions, but remember that buffer solutions often have hazardous ingredients. If your eyes will be unhappy if you are hit with a splash, wear chemical splash goggles.

Safety goggles, particularly the indirect-vent kind, are prone to fogging internally, especially in hot, humid conditions (think Baltimore in August). There are three ways to prevent fogging: 1. Wear goggles with a built-in antifog protection. 2. If you have antifog goggles and they’re still fogging up, wash the goggles. Dirt and dust provide places for fog to nucleate on the lenses. 3. Use antifog wipes such as these, which are claimed to extend the fog-free time for antifog goggles by 60X!

If you have questions about eye protection, contact Dr. Daniel Kuespert, Homewood Laboratory Safety Advocate, at [email protected]. See Dr. Kuespert’s website,, for more safety information. As always, emergency response is available from Security at 410-516-7777.

Some Safety Measures Are Better Than Others: The Hierarchy of Controls

We do a variety of things to maintain safety in the lab: wearing safety goggles, using biological safety cabinets, following specific procedures. Not all of these safety measures are equally protective. We safety professionals use the NIOSH Hierarchy of Controls as a guide to which sorts of safety measures are preferred over others.

The Hierarchy of Controls gives five levels of hazard control, from most preferred to least (wording from the NIOSH source above):

1.     Elimination: Physically remove the hazard.

2.     Substitution: Replace the hazard (presumably with something less hazardous).

3.     Engineering Controls: Isolate people from the hazard.

4.     Administrative Controls: Change the way people work.

5.     Personal Protective Equipment (PPE): Protect the worker with PPE.

The reason for this order of preference is effectiveness. Administrative controls, for example, depend on (unreliable) human beings to follow procedures and rules without fail; a built-in control, such as a fume hood, tends to be more effective.

If you have questions about the NIOSH Hierarchy of Controls, contact Dr. Daniel Kuespert, Homewood Laboratory Safety Advocate, at [email protected]. See Dr. Kuespert’s website,, for more safety information. As always, emergency response is available from Security at 410-516-7777.