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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

To save you time we've identified the questions that are most frequently asked about using The Laboratory Safety Institute services and questions that we are asked the most.  The best way to do a search to see if your question is here would be to utilize your computers own search engine.  By holding down the Ctrl button and pressing F at the same time, you will have a search bar come up at the bottom of your screen.  Type in the find box a key word for your question and hit enter.  Each time you hit enter your search engine will bring you to the next line containing your key word selection.

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Q: Help!! What do all these acronyms mean? Is there a guide somewhere?

A: Yes there is a guide here. If you don't find what you're looking for, send an email to the Labsafety-L list and ask. If you're not a member of the list find the directions here on how to join. If you are having any issues joining, you can send an e-mail to Christina Dillard.

Q: The administration wants me to coordinate a college-wide safety committee to establish a site safety plan. Where do I begin?!

A.  There are so many areas -- labs, classrooms, grounds, facilities, security, etc. -- that it may be prudent to establish several smaller committees, with an elected representative to participate in a larger committee.  Meeting frequency will be established on the need and work which must be accomplished.  

The larger or executive safety committee must be chaired by an individual of authority, and counseled by an experienced safety professional.  This person needs to be one who can get things done. If this person is not in place, the rest will fall by the way side.

All committees will need to address the following issues (to name a few of the main ones):

  • Fire safety and evacuation procedures
  • The PPE standard - which requires evaluation, training and record keeping
  • Liability issues

  • Security issues
  • Accident record keeping and analysis
  • The Hazard Communication Standard and Laboratory Safety Standard (1910.1200&.1450)
  • Safety and environmental inspection frequency of all facilities

All of the above procedures should be formalized in writing, including the formal set up of the Safety Committee structure, their function and purpose.

Q: How many square feet per student is recommended for class/laboratories?

A: The recommendation of NSTA and LSI is to have the lesser of 24 students per lab, and the design capacity of the room, or 55 sq. ft. per student for lecture/lab combo rooms and 45 sq. ft. per student for only lab rooms. The Laboratory Safety Institute has published a report on class sizes and lab accidents. "There's No Safety In Numbers" summarizes the research in this area, state and federal regulations, and successful approaches to dealing with the problem.  You can request a copy of this article here.

Q: Does anyone know flashpoints for various ethanol/water mixtures?

A: This table below was sent by a reader (thank you!) to the list as an answer.  The values are retyped from NFPA 325 and it is essential that you check them for yourself before relying on the information here.

Ethanol/Water mixture flash pts

w/w %

v/v %
(5.6oC)

proof

oC

oF

100

100

200

12.8

55

96

97.5

192

16.7

62

95

96.8

190

17.2

63

80

85.5

160

20.0

68

70

76.9

140

21.1

70

60

67.7

120

22.2

72

50

57.8

100

23.9

75

40

47.3

80

26.1

79

30

36.2

60

29.4

85

20

24.5

40

36.1

97

10

12.4

20

49 0

120

5

6.2

10

62.2

144


As aside point, there is/was the story of the origin of the term "proof."  Need some help from the readership on this one probably, but best recollection here says:

If it would burn (what burn, from the top of a shot glass or a cotton rag soaked in it...?), that was PROOF that it was at least 50% alcohol...

Q: What is meant by the expression "high degree of acute toxicity," as in 29CFR 1910.1450 (e)(3)(viii)?

A: Interpretation of Lab Standard language given in 1990 (original web rendering) summarizes "...substances that are considered to have a high degree of acute toxicity are those substances which are highly toxic as defined under the HCS and may be fatal or cause damage to target organs as a result of a single exposure or exposures of short duration."

The HCS (Hazard Communication Standard) definitions are in Appendix A of that standard, and the definitions for highly toxic and toxic (cut and pasted from the Appendix A webpage on 2/9/99) read as follows:

"Toxic." A chemical falling within any of the following categories:

  1. A chemical that has a median lethal dose (LD(50)) of more than 50 milligrams per kilogram but not more than 500 milligrams per kilogram of body weight when administered orally to albino rats weighing between 200 and 300 grams each.
  2. A chemical that has a median lethal dose (LD(50)) of more than 200 milligrams per kilogram but not more than 1,000 milligrams per kilogram of body weight when administered by continuous contact for 24 hours (or less if death occurs within 24 hours) with the bare skin of albino rabbits weighing between two and three kilograms each.
  3. A chemical that has a median lethal concentration (LC(50)) in air of more than 200 parts per million but not more than 2,000 parts per million by volume of gas or vapor, or more than two milligrams per liter but not more than 20 milligrams per liter of mist, fume, or dust, when administered by continuous inhalation for one hour (or less if death occurs within one hour) to albino rats weighing between 200 and 300 grams each.

"Highly toxic:" A chemical falling within any of the following categories:

  1. A chemical that has a median lethal dose (LD(50)) of 50 milligrams or less per kilogram of body weight when administered orally to albino rats weighing between 200 and 300 grams each.
  2. A chemical that has a median lethal dose (LD(50)) of 200 milligrams or less per kilogram of body weight when administered by continuous contact for 24 hours (or less if death occurs within 24 hours) with the bare skin of albino rabbits weighing between two and three kilograms each.
  3. A chemical that has a median lethal concentration (LC(50)) in air of 200 parts per million by volume or less of gas or vapor, or 2 milligrams per liter or less of mist, fume, or dust, when administered by continuous inhalation for one hour (or less if death occurs within one hour) to albino rats weighing between 200 and 300 grams each.

Having these definitions, go back to the interpretation above and note the separation of its two clauses with the following emphasis added:
"...those substances which are highly toxic or toxic as defined under the HCS AND may be fatal or cause damage to target organs as a result of a single exposure or exposures of short duration."

Note that there is no dose specified in the second clause, which makes the second clause utterly irrelevant.

Short story - pretty wide open and the list is never, never, ever complete.

Q: What is the current thinking on the advisability of contact lenses in labs?

Chemical Health Safety 1997

NIOSH Intelligence Bulletin 59

OH&S Article: Contact Lenses in a Chemical Environment

Q: How do I dispose of mercury waste? My regular waste contractor says they can't take it.

A: LSI recommends that spilled mercury be stored in sealed containers and labeled "Mercury to be Recovered." Companies like D.F. Goldsmith (315-869-7800) in Evanston, Illinois will purchase mercury for recycling.

Q: What is Chemical Inventory Software and Requirements?

A: ChemTrack Description of the software (V3.03)

Chemical Inventory and Organization Data Base for use with Microsoft Excel Copyright 1985-1995 by Roger H. Postley. Written for IBM and MS-DOS and compatible computers. Office, MS-DOS, windows, word and excel trademarks of Microsoft Corporations. This Word V6.0 and Excel V5.0* set of documents and data base was designed to be a high adaptable and useful tool for laboratories and the person in charge of chemical stock room. It contains approximately 1200 entries of standard chemicals, usually in several grades of purity. The Documentation ("instruct.doc") and chemical entry format ("allchem.xls") ar eon the 31/2' disk. Also, disk has a brief "readme.doc" and "notes.doc" that has last minute updates and changes. As it is unlikely that these chemicals will match your inventory, the data base can be customized. After customizing the "ALLCHEM.EXL" data base can be separated into smaller files, such as "Inorganics", "Organics", and "Stains/indicators" if you desire.

Minimum System:
The minimum system that will allow this data base to be used an IBM or compatible computer with two megabytes of memory, hard drive, one 31/2' drive, and a printer with multiple font and type size capabilities. To print stockroom list, it is nice to have bold face or enhanced mode capability on your printer. In addition, you must be using MS-DOS* 3.1 (or newer) and MS-Windows*.

An updated version of Chemical Management software can be purchased through LSI here.

Q: Where do I buy a seminar notebook to use it as a reference?

A: You can order by phone, mail, fax, email, or at our webstore. We accept MasterCard, Visa, US Checks, and institutional purchase orders. LSI's One-day Audio-Seminar ($148.00) has 5.5 hours of recorded training and the seminar notebook. The Two-day Video Short Course ($795.00) has 12-hours of DVD video training on eight, 90-minute DVD's and the notebook.

Q: Does LSI offer scholarship assistance?

A: Currently we have a scholarship fund available until all funds are allocated.  To learn more about our scholarship offer you can click here.

We are looking for more ways to offer scholarships to those who may not have the funds.  If you would like to contribute to a scholarship fund please contact us here.

When there are no scholarships available, LSI will do our best to work with an teacher looking to attend one of our courses. What we're doing is asking each teacher who inquire to indicate the total cost of his/her attending (travel, meals, hotel, registration fee, substitute teacher, etc.), the amount of assistance being requested from LSI, the amount the school is willing to contribute to support the teacher's participation, and the amount the teacher is willing to personally provide to make it possible to participate.

In the absence of both the school and the teacher being willing to help, it is unlikely that LSI will want to provide assistance. For starters, if attending will require you to apply for overnight accommodations, we can try to identify another participant who would like to share a room and split that cost. Second, there is an additional way. LSI will refund 20% of your registration fee for each additional participant you recruit who attends the short courses this Fall (any location).

Q: How do I make sure my membership is still current?

A: You should receive a renewal notice. You can also call the office or use our contact us form here. You may wish to also consider having your school become and organizational member. The school can designate five representatives.  To learn more click here.

Q: Where can you take the CHO exam?

A: LSI does proctor the exam here at our office.  However, arrangements to take the exam have to be made through the NRCC.  For more information and a list of current dates you can view them here.

Q: My child's high school AP Biology teacher is talking about doing blood group testing in the HS laboratory (includes the pricking of fingers and blood drops on slides). At the university we no longer use any blood or body fluids in the lab. I'm sure this must be the same guideline for high schools. Besides how would they dispose of the sharps and other waste without an autoclave. Help--I need to go to the teacher with some published guidelines. Thanks.

A: Blood typing can be done safely and have significant educational benefit when conducted with proper care and precautions. If you would like to receive a copy of the National Biology Teachers Association Policy Statement on this subject, we would be happy to fax or mail it to you. NABT supports these activities with proper precautions. Our organization agrees with NABT.  For your copy send us an email.

Q:Each term we have students sign a chemistry laboratory safety agreement. Do these safety agreements hold up in court if a student is injured due to failure to follow the agreement? Also, can enforce the dress code we put in the student contract.The issue is of most concern in the summer, when students often come to lab in shorts, sandals,and tank tops or halter tops. What can you advise on thisproblem?

A: LSI calls them rules agreements and not contracts. The agreements are a great way to emphasize the importance of safety; they speak for themselves as a piece of evidence in a court case; and they provide a fair basis for imposing sanctions.

They have to be enforced. Don't put anything in it you are not prepared to enforce.

I feel strongly that you not only can enforce the dress code, but you must. Otherwise, you don't have a dress code, you have lip service. Students are more likely to be hurt and you are more likely to lose the law suit that might follow.

Q: I was wondering if I could get a copy of your "101 Ways to Convince People That Safety Is Important." I am always looking for good advice on employee relations and safety.

A: Yes you sure can. "101 Ways to Convince People".

Q: I know of a publication, book or product that would be great for you to carry.  Where would I send my suggestions?

A: All suggestions for our webstore sales can be done via email, phone: 508-647-1900508-647-1900, or through our online form.


If you have any questions you would like answered, you can contact us here.