Category: Uncategorized

Not Rocket Science: A JHU Safety Note   


A researcher working without a lab coat spilled 10 mL of a solution containing small amounts of beta-mercaptoethanol on their forearm. The researcher removed gloves and sweater, then flushed the area with water for about 20 minutes. During this time, another student looked up the Safety Data Sheet for the spilled chemical, saw the notation “Fatal in contact with skin,” and called emergency responders.  

Security contacted HSE, which determined that negative health effects were unlikely despite the chemical’s acute toxicity due to the small volume and dilute concentration of the chemical along with the short duration of the exposure.  


  • Wear appropriate PPE for the task. 
  • A laboratory coat, particularly one which is chemical-resistant, can provide substantial short-term protection from chemical splash. 
  • Gloves must be chosen for the chemicals in use, since one glove may protect against different chemicals or exposures than another. 
  • Keep sashes lowered on fume hoods to provide more protection against splashes. 
  • Review Safety Data Sheets before working with a chemical.  
  • This is university policy and is not optional! 
  • Pay particular attention to first-aid instructions. 
  • Resources for SDSs 


  • How do we ensure that all lab occupants have read the SDS of a given chemical before working with it? 
  • How might the outcome of this incident have changed had the SDS for this chemical not been consulted? 
  • How do we select and use the correct personal protective equipment? 
  • What does the role played by the other student in this incident show about the roles of buddies in the lab? 


Contact Dr. Dan Kuespert, Laboratory Safety Advocate, at 410-516-5525 or [email protected] for
more information about this JHU Safety Note. 


In Memoriam

Someone dies in a laboratory in the United States about once a year. This is far less than the number who die in steelworking, for example, but then again, there are more steelworkers than lab workers. One can argue over who has the higher death rate. Sometimes we forget that even one fatality is not an acceptable result, getting bogged down in numbers and neglecting the fact that “the fatality” was a real person.

To help combat this tendency to focus on numbers, the Laboratory Safety Institute ( has a Memorial Wallon its website listing the name of each victim (if known), year of death, and what details are known about the person’s death. Persons on the list range from Sheri Sangi, who died from exposure to hazardous chemicals in 2009, to historical figures such as Hopkins’ own Fredrick Baetjer, a pioneer in X-ray studies, who died in 1933 of chronic overexposure to X-radiation.

If you have questions about lab safety, 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.

STEM Graduate Student Wellness Seminar: Sleep and Mindfulness

The JHU Center for Health Education and Wellness and the Homewood Laboratory Safety Advocate are pleased to present a student wellness seminar on “Sleep and Mindfulness,” scheduled for January 25, 10:30-11:30 am on Zoom. Molly Hutchison of CHEW will be the presenter.

While these topics have direct relevance to lab safety, they apply to all students; it’s a health seminar, not a specifically “safety” seminar. Students from all STEM departments are invited to attend.

To register, use the following link:

Questions about the seminar can be directed to Dr. Daniel Kuespert, Laboratory Safety Advocate, at [email protected] or 410-516-5525

Biosafety in Microbiological and Biomedical Laboratories (BMBL) 6th Edition

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have just released the 6th edition of the Biosafety in Microbiological and Biomedical Laboratories (BMBL). This updated book is the primary reference on biosafety and compliance with its practices and guidelines is required for those on NIH grants.

A PDF download version is available here.

Any concerns, comments, or suggested edits can be sent to [email protected]

Hard copy books can be ordered through CDC INFO On-Demand – Publications by entering the publication ID (300859) into the search bar at the far right and following the instructions. Once the publication reaches the maximum amount of orders allowed per day, a ‘temporarily unavailable’ message will appear. If this occurs, simply try to reorder the next day.

Small Laser Controlled Area Improves Lab Utility and Reduces Costs.

The Lab Safety Advocate’s office recently worked with a research group that uses a large shared lab. A new laser instrument (a Raman spectroscope) required all in the lab to use very dark laser protective goggles in an already-dark room; this would have interfered with operations. We established a very small Laser Controlled Area that confined the laser beam and provided a dark environment to the experiment instead of the lab, improving the experimental results and allowing other experiments to take place unimpeded simultaneously in the lab. This saved about $2,000 in laser protective eyewear costs.

Hazard assessment resources from the ACS

Hazard assessment is an important part of the overall process of controlling hazards in the laboratory. The American Chemical Society recently developed a website that gives detailed information and tools for doing hazard assessments–tools that apply not only to chemistry but to all laboratory research.

I encourage all researchers to look at the ACS’s site to see what lessons can be learned. If you would like an introduction to the resources available or a “teach-in” on a particular part (e.g., standard operating procedures–what we call “experimental protocols” in academia), please contact me at [email protected].