By: K. Lee Stone

Lee Stone has a Master's degree in toxicology from Indiana University and is a certified Chemical Hygiene Officer.


Lee has served as the Laboratory Safety Manager for the Office of Environmental Health and Safety since 2004.


E-mail Lee at: leestone@iupui.edu


No Speeding in the Laboratory

Are you speeding in the laboratory? Have you taken short cuts because you are in a hurry? Recently the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released a report which suggests that the researcher responsible for the contamination of a relatively benign H9N2 bird flu strain with the deadly H5N1 was in a rush to attend a lab meeting. You can read about the accident here or you can read the entire report here.


In 2003 a 44-year-old senior scientist at Taipei's National Defense University who had been researching SARS had an accident in his lab Dec. 5 while hurrying to complete an experiment before traveling to Singapore for a medical conference.

These are just a few of the many examples of accidents that have occurred because people were speeding in the workplace.

Here are just a few examples of speeding violations in the laboratory:

  • Didn't wear safety glasses because the job would only take a few minutes.
  • Recapped a needle because the sharps container was too far away.
  • Cleaned up a hazardous chemical spill because you could do it yourself faster and wouldn't have to bother anyone else.
  • Left the laboratory without taking the time to wash your hands.
  • Didn’t put on cryogenic gloves when working with liquid nitrogen because you couldn’t find them and you didn’t have time to look for them.
  • Left your laboratory unsecured because it takes too much time to unlock the door.
  • Walked between laboratories with gloves on both hands because it takes too much time to remove the gloves.
  • Used a device with a damaged electrical cord because you did not want to take the time to get it fixed.
  • Removed a guard from your vacuum pump to replace the belt, but haven't got around to putting it back yet.
  • Didn't want to take the time to collect your hazardous waste so you just poured it down the drain to save time.
  • Used a transilluminator with the Plexiglas shield broken off because you do not have the time to order another one or get it fixed.
  • Didn't unplug a piece of equipment before working on it because you would only have to plug it in again.
  • Left the funnel in a dump jug and the cap off because it takes too much time to take the lid off every time you want to add waste.
  • Didn’t label a secondary container because you did not have a marker or time to look for one.
  • Didn't slow down this time at a blind corner because you never saw anyone there before.
  • Didn’t put the strap or chain back on the compressed gas cylinder because you will just have to take it back off when it is empty and you replace it.
  • Worked with the fume hood sash fully raised or failed to empty the fume hood and close the sash when completed because it just takes too much time.
  • Left dirty glassware lying around because you do not have time to clean it.
  • Let biohazardous waste pile up because you simply don’t have enough time to run to the autoclave every time your biohazardous waste bags are full.
  • Allowing waste containers to overfill because you don’t have time to properly dispose of them and replace them with an empty one.

I can continue on with this list and I am sure many of you could add to this list as the examples of speeding in the laboratory are almost endless. Do any of the above examples sound familiar? Maybe too familiar? Which of the above have you caught yourself doing?

It is important to remember that sometimes when you hurry we are lucky and nothing bad happens. Other times there may be "near misses", but eventually a serious injury will occur. It is only a matter of time. Is it really worth your eyesight, your limbs or even your life to save those few minutes?

When hurrying on the job, you don't end up speeding up the work, you just speed up your chances of an accident. Speeding in the laboratory can result in serious injury or death just as speeding in a vehicle. Please avoid speeding violations in your laboratory and leave speeding to our Indy 500 drivers.



Lab Notes is a quarterly publication by the IUPUI Office of Environmental Health and Safety. Lab Notes is designed, edited and published by K. Lee Stone.

"Don't Learn Laboratory Safety by Accident!"