Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Accidents in the lab...and elsewhere

Fortunately, for most of us, laboratory accidents are minor and more embarrassing exposing stupidity and neglect. Rarely do they end in a fatality.

These are from the Internet...

One of my students thought you turned off a Bunsen burner by yanking the hose off of the gas. To make a long story short, he left the gas on in a lab overnight. That could have ended badly...


Back when I was a grad student at ORNL one of my associates left his watch on when we were working on a vacuum evaporator. The power was on and it was surprisingly easy to accidentally locate the live connection. He could fly! I guess that is better than being rooted to the spot, right?


One student pushed a glass pipette through his hand when trying to force it through a hole in a stopper. He's actually the only person I have seen do that, though I have been told it's a common accident.


This isn't an accident or safety violation, but it relates to one. A student splashed a chemical in her eye and went to use the eye wash station. The water in the eye wash station didn't have a drain since it was for emergencies, so it was only turned on when it was tested. The water from the eye wash station ran white for a couple of minutes. We later tested it for lead (very old building). Let's just say the girl would have been better off running to the bathroom and sticking her face in the toilet than using the eye wash.


One of my college friends was playing with rubbing alcohol, tracing out patterns on the lab table. Then she would set one end alight to watch the pretty blue flame trace out the alcohol path. If small doodles are fun, what about large ones? My friend came up with a grand plan and enlisted another friend to go out into the hallway with the alcohol bottle and lighter. A couple minutes later, a loud 'wuff' noise and orange glow appeared through the door followed by the sound of 'Uh oh!' I learned how to properly use a fire extinguisher and managed to clean up enough where the only evidence of the experiment was a pattern of missing floor wax on the linoleum.

My laboratory experiences ranges from cuts, alkali and acid burns, silver nitrate marks on the hands, and the "big one". In my buddy's lab we were working on the initial steps in the production of mercuric fulminate by dissolving some mercury in boiling nitric acid. Me, the adolescent klutz, knocked over the beaker of metal and acid...the contents spilling on my right leg. Painful and slowwwwww healing followed. I still have the scar.

Do you have lab accidents that you would care to disclose to the world?

Tert-Butyllithium yields a fatality

UCLA lab fire--update

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