Category: Uncategorized

Warning: Laser eye protection for ultrafast lasers may not be protective

Laser eye protection is normally rated using continuous-wave, narrow-bandwidth lasers. Nevertheless, some labs use pulsed lasers, which have wider bandwidths and higher peak powers; in the case of pico- and femtosecond pulses, this is taken to extremes.

Recent work at NIST and Hood College in Frederick, MD, has shown that much laser protective eyewear is not capable of withstanding fast laser pulses. (J. Laser Appl. 2017, DOI: 10.2351/1.5004090) 22 different pairs of eye protection were tested against a 40-80 fs pulsed laser, and more than half failed to perform as rated. All plastic protective lenses failed.

It is strongly recommended that when selecting laser protective eyewear, you test the eyewear against your particular use condition to ensure that they provide adequate protection. The Laser Safety Advocate, Niel Leon, is available to assist with testing of this sort.

Further information can be found in the cited paper and in this article in Chemical & Engineering News.

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 dkuespert@jhu.edu.

Lab safety posters

The safety posters below may be used by any JHU laboratory–just print them out and post!

Be sure to choose a poster suitable for your lab. A poster about lab coats is not appropriate in a mechanical lab where lab coats are forbidden (because they might catch on something). A poster about compressed gases might be a better choice in that case.

Rotate safety posters at least quarterly. Research shows that posters start to lose effectiveness quickly, so “switching them up” is a good way to keep your fellow researchers safety-aware.

   

Incompatible chemicals in waste containers

Do you dispose of different types of chemicals? If so, you run the risk of mixing incompatible chemicals together in your waste containers. Refer to this chart (EPAChemicalCompatibilityChart) to help determine what you can put in the same waste container. The chart is fairly complex, but the topic is also fairly complex. Always be sure to use secondary references such as Safety Data Sheets to verify that your chemicals are compatible–the EPA chart is general, not specific.