FAQs

General

The superconducting magnet in the lab just quenched and helium is filling the lab. Now what?

During a quench, the remaining cryogenic liquid helium in a superconducting magnet is released over several minutes. One liter of liquid helium expands into 700 (!) liters of gaseous helium. The quench line should in principle capture the escaping gas, but may rupture due to the high pressure that is generated. If helium escapes into the laboratory, it will form a white fog. Helium is a non-toxic gas that is lighter than air, and hence helium will mainly be concentrated at the top of the room. Helium displaces oxygen in the room, and thus presents a grave asphyxiation hazard. DO NOT INHALE helium, as this will lead to unconsciousness.

If the leak of the quench line is minor, alert your colleagues in the laboratory, open a window (if possible), then proceed to safe location out of the laboratory to alert the lab supervisor.

If the leak is major, alert your colleagues and immediately leave the laboratory, shutting the door behind you. Pull the fire alarm to initiate evacuation of the building and an emergency response. Contact the lab supervisor at the earliest opportunity from a safe location.

I spotted a safety violation in another lab. Who do I tell about it?

All safety violations should be reported to the principal investigator (PI) of the research group, either directly or by way of a laboratory manager (if one has been assigned). Do not handle the situation yourself unless you feel that someone is in immediate danger.

There is water leaking into my lab from the lab above. What do I do?

Try to determine where the water is coming from and stop its flow. This may be as simple as finding someone in (or with access to) the laboratory above you. If the leak cannot be stopped, try to abate the damage as much as possible (cover or move equipment, supplies, data, etc.). Plastic garbage bags work well as covering.

Ask for assistance. During normal working hours (8 a.m. – 5 p.m.) e-mail work@chem.ufl.edu and/or call:

Joey Lott (352-339-3071)

Back-up: John Flowers (352-392-0541)

Outside normal working hours (after 5 p.m. and on weekends) call:

UF Physical Plant and report as an emergency (352-392-1121)

Back-up: UF Police Department and report as an emergency (352-392-1111)

My reaction needs to be heated to reflux overnight. Can I run tap water through the condenser and down the drain?

No, you need to use a recirculating chiller for cooling water in the laboratory. The UF PPD Utility Policy states: “Where potable water is required to support research/experiments (by one-time pass through), use will not exceed 30 minutes duration and must be under constant observation by qualified personnel. Research/experiments requiring more than 30 minutes of pass through water must uses self-contained recycle cooling equipment.” In addition, please keep in mind that reactions unattended for several hours or overnight must be pre-approved by the PI or laboratory supervisor. Room lights should be left on and a notice should be placed on the lab door with the name and number of the researcher running the experiment and any pertinent information about the process.

Where do we go if there is a building evacuation?

Class instructors, office coordinators, and lab PIs or managers are responsible for designating a meeting place outdoors that is at least 50 feet away from the building and clear of entrances. Everyone must leave the building if the building alarm sounds. Do not re-enter the building until the alarm stops and emergency personnel have given the “all clear” signal.

Laboratory Safety

At what level should I keep my fume hood sash?

On every fume hood there is a white Environmental Health and Safety (EH&S) profile sticker that shows the date the fume hood was last profiled, the face velocity measured, and the minimum (if any) and normal operating height of the sash. The typical operating height of the sash will be 16 inches (41 centimeters), unless the fume hood has been approved for special use (e.g., radioisotopes). If work is not actively being performed in the hood, the sash should be set to the minimum height (if any) or closed. Further information about proper fume hood operation can be found at http://www.ehs.ufl.edu/Lab/fumehood.htm.

My fume hood is not working. Who should I contact?

Send an email to work@chem.ufl.edu with a description of the problem. Departmental maintenance staff will respond as quickly as possible to initiate the repair process. The nature of the problem will dictate to what extent the hood will need to be cleaned out by the lab researchers before repairs can begin.

Yikes, a chemical spill! Now what?

If the chemical spill has splashed onto someone, immediately take appropriate first aid steps (e.g., flush affected area with cold water, remove contaminated clothing, seek medical attention). In summary, lab members should use the lab spill kit to clean up only small incidental spills that present a minimum hazard. Alert all personnel and turn off ignition sources in the immediate area. For larger spills, call EH&S at 392-1591 for assistance. If evacuation of the building is indicated (e.g., due to hazardous vapors), pull the fire alarm and evacuate. Detailed procedures for handling chemical spills are found in the UF Laboratory Safety Manual beginning on page 13.

I spilled a chemical in my eye. Help!

Go to the nearest emergency eyewash or safety shower, and thoroughly rinse the eye for at least 15 minutes, moving the eye side-to-side and up and down. Make sure to remove contact lenses prior to rinsing. Seek medical attention immediately after rinsing.

The first aid kit in my lab looks incomplete and outdated. Can I get a new one?

For new first aid kits or refill items, contact EH&S at 352-392-1591 or use the order form at http://www.ehs.ufl.edu/lab/firstaidkits.htm.

I have heard there is a form to fill out whenever there is an accident or injury in the lab, even a minor one.

a) Where do I find it?

You can find a copy of the form on our Department’s safety website: Safety Forms.

b) Why do I have to fill this out?

It is important to complete the form so that we have an accurate record of the incident, we know what kinds of first aid were administered, and we know what measures were taken to prevent similar incidents in the future.

I was washing some glassware and got a cut on my finger. Do I really need to fill out an accident report?

Even if you think that the accident was minor, like a small cut while washing glassware, you still need to complete a form while the incident is fresh in your mind. If you notice later that you have a reaction from the cut, glass imbedded in the wound, or some other symptom, the form can be very helpful to health professionals at the hospital of infirmary.

I heard that I need to date when I receive and when I open certain chemicals. Which ones?

All peroxide formers should be dated both when received and when opened. Peroxide formers must be picked up by EH&S within six (6) months after date of opening or one (1) year after date of receipt. Common peroxide formers are ethyl ether, ethylene glycol dimethyl ether (glyme), vinyl ethers, and isopropyl ether.

Should I wear my safety glasses even though they have a big acetone smear on the lens? Safety glasses with a big acetone smear no longer meet compliance with the safety codes and therefore are not acceptable as protective eye protection. Plus, a large part of your field of vision is impaired which leads to additional safety concerns.

Why do I have to wear shoes that enclose my entire foot? My toes are covered.

Exposed skin on the top of the foot is easily injured by spills (e.g., acid, radioactive material, broken glass). The best way to avoid skin contamination is to have sufficient coverage of the entire foot. Socks or stockings are not a sufficient barrier as liquids can penetrate and reach the skin. In the case of some liquids, DMSO for example, any contaminant on the skin can enter the bloodstream upon contact. The shoe should cover the entire foot so that the possibility of injury is minimized.

Do I ever have to wear a full face shield and/or a blast shield?

Face shields are recommended when there is a possibility of splashing chemicals, violent reactions, or flying particles. They are also highly recommended when handling cryogenic liquids or grinding/crushing dry ice. Blast shields are required as protective barriers for potentially explosive chemical reactions, including those run under high pressure (i.e., in pressure-rated glass vessels).

Chemical Safety

Is it OK to transfer chemicals up and down the stairs or should I always use the elevator?

Use the elevator and secondary containment. If you use the stairs and trip and fall, whatever injury you have needs to be addressed and the chemical spill needs to be cleaned up. Depending on the chemical this could be very dangerous and involve shutting down the stairs and possible evacuation of the building. Even a secondary container can spill its contents if dropped or flipped during a fall.

Why is it important to replace the cap/lid on chemicals immediately after dispensing?

Some chemicals are moisture sensitive, others are irritants, and many are toxic. All bottles/containers need to be closed immediately to avoid any degradation of the chemicals or reactions. If several bottles are open, the wrong lids could be put on and the results disastrous. It is also important in avoiding chemical spills. There is always the possibility of a bottle being knocked over, causing an unintended reaction or requiring building evacuation.

Hazardous Material Management

Clean labware disposal: What’s “clean” and what isn’t?

“Clean” labware is not contaminated with any chemicals; this includes glassware that has been triple rinsed and dried to remove the contamination. Any labware that is contaminated with a chemical and cannot be reasonably cleaned must be treated as chemical waste.

I broke a glass pipette. How do I dispose of it?

Broken glass constitutes a hazard for cuts and should be disposed of immediately. If the glass is clean (free of chemical contamination), the broken parts of the pipette can be placed in a plastic-lined cardboard box (that will ultimately be sealed and disposed of as standard trash). Contaminated glass waste must be treated as solid chemical waste and collected in a 30-gallon fiber drum (equipped with a hinged lid). The drum must be labeled as hazardous waste (with the contents identified) and removed by EH&S.

Where should I dispose my gloves? Is it okay to dispose them in the normal garbage can?

No, it is not okay. Regular garbage bins are not appropriate for the disposal of used gloves of any type (e.g., latex, nitrile, neoprene, etc.). Used gloves are recognized as chemical waste and should be disposed with other solid chemical wastes. The container should be labeled with clear notice of used gloves contents.

Radiation Safety

I’m aligning the laser. Are there any precautions to take?

Prior to aligning a laser, warning signs (e.g. “Do not enter”, “Laser alignment in progress”) must be posted outside the laboratory to alert other laboratory colleagues. No casual users must be present in the laboratory during laser alignment. All laser operators must wear protective eye goggles and should remove any reflective surfaces in the vicinity of the laser beam. Confine the beam to one part of the laboratory by means of laser curtains and beam stops. Always keep the laser on the plane of the optical table, well below eye level.

Fire Safety

I had a small fire in my lab and I used the fire extinguisher to put it out.

Do I need to report this?

Yes. You must also complete an “Injury and Incident Report Form” (http://www.chem.ufl.edu/facilities/safety-forms.shtml) detailing the accident and use of the extinguisher.

Can I just put the extinguisher back?

No, place the extinguisher on the floor under its normal location and contact the Fire Equipment Services office at 392-1591 to have the extinguisher replaced. Once used there is no guarantee as to the amount of usable material remaining in the extinguisher.

Teaching Lab Safety

Why can’t I wear shorts in the lab?

To minimize the possibility of injury, maximum coverage of the body is necessary. Loose fitting clothing gives the person with the contamination on their clothes a chance to deal with the contamination without injury to themselves. Shorts offer no protection against spills.

If we aren’t doing “wet” chemistry for this lab session, why do I still need to wear my safety glasses?

Safety rules for the teaching laboratory apply to the laboratory itself, not the specific activity for that day. Please keep in mind that our teaching laboratories contain many reagent bottles that are present in the lab even if we aren’t doing “wet” chemistry. You never know when an accident may happen, and that is why it is important to be adequately protected while in the laboratory.

Why do I have to wear the safety glasses/goggles you specify? Why can’t I wear the ones I want?

Our department has chosen several pairs of safety glasses/goggles for use in our teaching laboratory. Although there are many types of glasses/goggles that meet proper safety standards, there are also others that do not provide adequate protection for our labs. Our teaching lab staff needs to be able to quickly identify that you are wearing proper eyewear while working in our teaching labs.

 

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