Handy Guidance by Greg Kwolek

The hands are a common target for chemical, biological, radiological and physical exposures.  Two recent laboratory incidents demonstrate the importance of protecting the hands, both through an evaluation of workplace hazards and implementation of practices to limit exposure and selection and use of proper protective gloves. 

In one incident, laboratory worker sustained a chemical burn to their right hand while cleaning glassware in a potassium hydroxide bath.  In the cleaning process, their gloved hand was submerged in the bath and exposed to the corrosive solution when the nitrile glove they were wearing tore.  While nitrile gloves typically offer long-lasting chemical protection against potassium hydroxide, it is best to eliminate the potential exposure from the equation.  The use of an engineering control, such as tongs, to handle the glassware would reduce the potential for hand exposure.  If not feasible, consider double gloves or gloves with a greater chemical resistance rating than would be worn during general bench work.  Emphasis must be placed on evaluating work operations, identifying possible hazards and then employing practices and protective equipment to reduce or eliminate hazards

In a separate incident, while decanting chloroform through a funnel, the funnel overflowed and chloroform immediately began to dissolve the latex glove the laboratory worker was wearing, resulting in skin irritation.    

These are just two incidents that highlight the importance of identifying potential chemical hazards and determining the chemical protection afforded by a particular type of glove material before beginning work at the bench.  The ready availability of nitrile, latex or any other glove material in the laboratory must not be interpreted as an indication that it will provide adequate protection against all chemical hazards.  
How does one go about choosing the proper glove?  Referencing a Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) may only provide generic advice by recommending “gloves”, but not specify the safest material to don.  The best resource for help in selecting a protective glove that provides the desired chemical protection is a glove selection guide and most appropriately a guide published by the manufacturer of the specific glove intended for use.  Manufacturers test a variety of chemicals against different glove materials to determine chemical permeation and degradation.  Recommendations for a suitably protective glove are then published based on these data and can vary between manufacturers depending on specific formulations of glove materials.  The guides can be accessed from the manufacturers’ website or requested directly.  EH&S’s website provides links to some of the more common manufacturers.

Can I Remove My Lab Door? by Harry J. Oster

Often overlooked is the important role the door plays in the event of a fire, smoke or odor condition that warrants evacuation of a lab.  When closed, the door protects the hallway and allows neighboring occupants in adjoining labs to exit the floor past the room with the incident on their way to the emergency stairwell.  A clear hallway also allows the fire department to easily locate the room on fire, rather than facing a blinding smoke condition when they enter the floor from the stairwell. Accordingly, the answer to the sometimes asked question “can I remove my lab’s door?” is “No.”

You may also notice a metal rating tag, oblong in shape (see photo), attached to the side of the door. This means the door was properly manufactured to design specifications. The tag is made in different colors, which translates into the hourly fire rating for the door, typically 1.5 hours. The tag should never be painted or removed, as this will void the certification of the door.
As always, in the event of a fire, remember the acronym: R A C E.  Rescue, Alarm, Confine and Extinguish / Evacuate, with the focus on the letter “C”:  Close the Door!
Metal Tag

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