Thursday, September 25, 2008

lab safety

Right now we're in an interim space while our new lab is being located, designed, and built. This particular space is devoid of synthetic chemists save us, and so hoods were not an important part of the original design and there are too few of them. We have approximately two people working in each hood, depending on how you look at it.

Last week my hood mate, who is a decent researcher, made a simple mistake that ended up with a face full of butyllithium.

I wasn't there when she had her accident, but what I was told transpired was: she transferred a large disposable syringe full of BuLi to a reaction, tried to refill the syringe from the BuLi bottle, it got stuck, she wailed on it, it came apart, BuLi everywhere.

Most of the BuLi didn't make it out of the hood, the stuff that did landed predominantly on her gloves, coat, and safety glasses, but some hit her cheek and lip. Both got burned and today she is missing a small patch of skin on her cheek.

Hooray for safety equipment!

She did almost everything correctly, and the thing she did incorrectly is a thing I feel a lot of people would similarly do incorrectly. I think that most people's reaction to something they want to move which resists is to try to move it with more force. It's always a good idea to think before you go back and wail on it, even if the appropriate solution is, in fact, to wail on it.

By the way, she's ok. She got a burn on her cheek where it took off some skin, and got some on her lower lip, which swelled nicely. My feeling is that most of the swelling came from worrying at it, but I don't doubt that it felt none too pleasant.

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