This is a great summary with some valuable statistics that I intend to use as a reference. I have been asked to conduct compressed gas safety reviews at many major Universities and Government Research Laboratories in the US. Most had robust safety programs like yours. The challenge has always been to find knowledgeable individuals who are also not risk adverse to participate in the JSA's or HazOps. There were however some scary practices/systems even at some of the top Universities. In one, the PI was filling a gas suppliers cylinder with experimental gas without any regard to safe practices. These cylinders were then sent back to the supplier without any indication of what was put into them. This was dangerous to anyone handling/transporting the cylinders and a violation of the regulations. Some PI's truly believed that they knew better than anyone and typically ignore basic safety rules. I had one from an Ivy that proudly told me the that didn't wear safety glasses for 30 years and was never injured! Is this what he wants to pass to his students?
TFE is not an easy gas to handle since it can polymerize violently, cylinders contain an inhibitor that can become ineffective over time. The polymerization can also be triggered by heat, adiabatic compression or traces of oxygen. In 1999, 3 workers were killed in an explosion when they did not remove the air in a system they had repaired and opened the valve to pressurize the system.
From: ACS Division of Chemical Health and Safety <DCHAS-L**At_Symbol_Here**PRINCETON.EDU> On Behalf Of Daniel Crowl
Sent: Thursday, December 27, 2018 1:11 PM
Subject: Re: [DCHAS-L] Academic freedom?
In my opinion the academic freedom argument is just a cop-out for not having an adequate safety program. Does this faculty member have the "academic freedom" to expose and injure students and other people in the building? Does he have the "academic freedom" to violate the law?
Also, the article seems to imply that lab safety costs a lot of money. This is a myth.
My lab safety program in my research lab at Michigan Tech REDUCED my research costs by an estimated 15 to 20%. These cost savings occurred by reducing the time to graduate for my grad students doing experimental work. I estimate that my safety program reduced the graduation time for a PhD by 1 year and for an MS by 6 months. This time reduction resulted from the rigorous Job Safety Assessment (JSA) review that was used BEFORE the grad student could even begin to order any equipment for their experiment. The rigorous review by the very experienced JSA committee always found significant improvements in the apparatus and procedure. When I was in grad school in the 1970s it was more of a "trial and error" approach to building my apparatus - which took a lot of time. Not so much with a JSA review. There are also cost savings by not ordering equipment that later turns out to be unnecessary.
I was on the committee for an MS student for another faculty. He was building a really complex apparatus to produce a fuel additive. We did several JSA reviews and made very significant modifications to his original design - the original design by the student would not have worked. The experiment worked the first time it was turned on. The student ran the experiment continuously for 2 days and produced the required quantity of fuel additive. I estimate he would have spent another year by the trial and error approach.
My industry friends tell me that process safety - which is a bit different from lab safety - costs 2% of the bottom line. But it returns 6% for a net increase of 4% - this is huge. A companies profitability is closely coupled to their safety program. With process safety the process works better, product quality is improved, down time is reduced, and there are less incidents with resulting reduction in legal cases, accident investigations, regulatory fines, and so forth.
Safety saves money - period! No matter where it is applied.
Professor Emeritus, Michigan Tech
Adjunct Professor, University of Utah
On Thu, Dec 27, 2018 at 9:48 AM Ralph Stuart <000005bc294e9212-dmarc-request**At_Symbol_Here**lists.princeton.edu> wrote:
This is an interesting case study for those of us overseeing academic laboratories.
The article above includes an interesting take on academic freedom. Wikipedia describes academic freedom as
"Academic freedom is the conviction that the freedom of inquiry by faculty members is essential to the mission of the academy as well as the principles of academia, and that scholars should have freedom to teach or communicate ideas or facts (including those that are inconvenient to external political groups or to authorities) without being targeted for repression, job loss, or imprisonment."
The story doesn't indicate that any of those consequences are likely as a result of the University's action. The professor's case that he operates safely would probably be stronger if he wasn't pictured dispensing liquid nitrogen barehanded as part of the story...
Ralph Stuart, CIH, CCHO
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