Saturday, April 27, 2013

'Cause I'm in a generous mood

Hey, UCLA administrators! You too, Center for Laboratory Safety. Remember when I said this?
First, please quit calling yourselves "a model for other institutions." It would be a lot more effective to try to quote other people calling you that. It has happened, I think, and it would offer you a little more credibility than repeated self-praise. 
Los Angeles Counry Deputy District Attorney said this today at the preliminary hearing for Professor Patrick Harran (courtesy of Patch.com):
Hum said the agreement with the UC regents that resulted in the dismissal of criminal charges has led to "huge steps" in fixing deficiencies in lab safety throughout the UC system. UC has "become one of the leaders in the country" in terms of laboratory safety and training, he said.
That's a decent step, right? This one's on the house, folks.

[Not saying it's true (how do you rank these things objectively?), but it's a start.] 

3 comments:

  1. @CJ, I kinda disagree. You define yourself one way so many times, people are going to start believing you. The LA D.A. has no idea what defines being a leader in chemical safety. But UCLA has plugged itself as such so many times, people are starting to believe. I (and I know that you and others who visit this forum) haven't seen anything real coming out of their safety and training "system". For all I can tell, its been bluster. I'm sure that they have some good people thinking and focusing on this stuff ... but none of us have seen it ... and we're paying attention!

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  2. Unfortunately nothing has really changed in the UC system since the lawsuit was brought up. I cannot speak for UCLA specifically, but as a graduate and current staff member of a prominent UC, I can say that there has been nothing more than an additional useless hour long safety video and a one-time lab inspection. Fire resistant lab coats are expected to be worn, and lab coats and gloves are now required starting in general chemistry teaching labs, but these actions seem merely for show. As I work in a biochemistry lab where the most harmful substance I typically come across is 0.5 microliters of ehtidium bromide, safety is lax and no one (myself included) is actively trying to change that. And unfortunately, while organic labs tend to be more hazardous, freak accidents such as this one do not limit themselves. Yes there is now a dedicated safety officer who does his best to inform the department of safety practices and keep the fire system and hood ventilations well tested and up-to-date, but these "huge steps" appear to be mainly on the administrative side and are not trickling down to the PIs and grad students. And while better practices will hopefully become commonplace in a year or two as faculty and students become accustomed to more closely following safety rules, saying that the UC has "become one of the leaders in the country" seems to be stretching the truth quite a bit, at least for right now.

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    1. Sounds like the same way things always were. I was at Illinois myself, and safety was pretty much what you describe - it was all on the administrative side, and nothing filtered down to PI's or grad students. I always thought it was absurd to see each vacuum pump's exhaust conscientiously vented in a lab full of grad students working without goggles, or a sharps container for used syringes right next to a wastebasket full of dumped powders.

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