Tragedy struck the UCLA community recently when a researcher succumbed to complications from burns received during an accident involving the mishandling of t-Butyl lithium. Several lessons about preparation can be learned from this incident that might serve to prevent future catastrophe (see article previous page).
Pyrophoric reagents are extremely reactive to oxygen and moisture, and precautions must always be taken to prevent contact with air or water. Reactivity danger is often exacerbated by their storage in extremely flammable solvents.
Despite these hazards, pyrophoric materials can be safely manipulated and stored if the proper techniques and precautions are scrupulously followed. Lab workers must keep extraneous flammable or combustible materials away from areas where pyrophoric reagents are used or stored. Solid pyrophorics must only be handled in glove boxes flushed with inert gas, while liquid reagents, usually contained in glass bottles with PTFE-lined septa, can be manipulated with a cannula or syringe flushed with inert gas. The latter techniques should always be conducted in a fume hood if a glove box is not available, preferably behind a blast shield, and always with appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) – at a minimum, gloves, a lab coat, and safety glasses. Any fires involving pyrophoric materials may be extinguished by smothering with soda ash or sand. Contact EH&S to determine if your procedure necessitates maintenance of Class D fire extinguishing materials on hand; standard laboratory CO2 or Class ABC fire extinguishers should not be used on most pyrophoric fires, as this can disperse the fire. If you find yourself or a colleague on fire, first attempt to smother the flames with a lab coat, fire blanket, or by “Stop, Drop, and Roll”. Always know where your safety equipment is, should you need to use a safety shower or eyewash.
The importance of experience and comprehensive knowledge of the correct techniques for using pyrophoric and air-sensitive reagents cannot be overstated. Only qualified and experienced laboratory workers should ever manipulate these materials, and only after they have attained a complete understanding of the hazards involved and received hands-on instructions from knowledgeable peers regarding correct handling techniques. Read more about the Safe Use of Pyrophorics Reagents @ http://www.ehs.columbia.edu/pyrophorics.pdf
The University’s RASCAL system is a critically important portal for many research and administration needs. In addition to hosting training modules and worksheets for creating grant proposals, RASCAL is also used to create and submit IACUC and IRB protocols, along with their associated Hazardous Materials Appendices. These Appendices are used by EH&S to evaluate safety and compliance aspects of the research protocol. The Appendix submission process, as well as the process of updating or modifying an existing Appendix, can sometimes be a source of frustration however, particularly for those who do not regularly use the RASCAL system.
To facilitate this particular operation, EH&S, in conjunction with RASCAL’s administrative technical support staff, has developed a step-by-step worksheet that guides users through this process from start to finish. The worksheet can be found in the ‘What’s New’ section of our homepage, http://www.ehs.columbia.edu/
In addition to this document, the RASCAL system contains a “Help” function that answers many users’ most frequently asked questions about particular operations within the system. Often the answer to the question that will allow you to complete and submit your protocol can be found by clicking this “Help” button. As always, both the RASCAL staff and EH&S are available to assist those completing RASCAL-based documents with their technical questions.
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