An Unfortunate Reminder
You have heard the basic rules for laboratory safety many times. No food or drink, no horseplay, avoid working alone, confine long hair and loose clothing...etc. A recent accident at Yale University cost a young student her life and is a sad reminder of the importance of the simple but often forgotten laboratory safety rule of "Confine loose hair". Please click here to read the New York Time's account of the accident.
Properly guarded vacuum pump
I would like to first discuss machine guarding. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires guarding for any machine where machine parts, functions, or processes may cause injury. It is extremely important that all equipment in your laboratory with dangerous moving parts are properly guarded. A vacuum pump is an excellent example. A vacuum pump is generally operated by an electric motor attached by a belt and pulley mechanism. This belt and pulley must be guarded in such a way as to prevent contact with any of the moving parts. Generally a protective housing is placed over the belt and pulley mechanism, however this housing can be taken off for repairs and not replaced or can be broken off. Without this guarding in place long hair and loose clothing can become wrapped in the pulley or fingers can be caught all of which can have disastrous consequences. Therefore the first step in prevention is to check your laboratory and ensure all equipment with dangerous moving parts is properly guarded.
Old vacuum pump without garding
Next I would like to discuss confinement of long hair and loose clothing. Long hair can not only become entangled in moving equipment but can also create injury when working near hazardous chemicals and open flames. Long hair that is not confined can easily fall into laboratory containers such as beakers and can unknowingly come in contact with contaminated equipment and dirty bench tops. Hair will rapidly burn and long hair can easily be ignited by a bunsen burner or other open flame if not confined. Loose clothing such as ties and necklaces can also become entangled in moving equipment, can be ignited by open flame, can knock over containers as well as create many other dangerous situations.
We have laboratories on this campus with small machine shops as well as equipment with moving parts in laboratories so please make sure your equipment is properly guarded, tie long hair at the back of the head away from the front of the face and confine loose clothing.