Category Archives: Technical presentations

Pistoia Alliance Chemical Safety Library CSL Datathon

Pistoia Alliance
Chemical Safety Library CSLDatathon

To increase the valuable content in the free Chemical Safety Library (CSL), we are hosting a 2-week datathon in October to promote submissions to the CSL. Participants will be encouraged to submit incidents from the literature, in internal files or from personal experience.

You could win a $100 gift card.

Please help us spread the word:
Download the CSL Datathon Flyer and share it widely!

Thank you for your support and help!

Watch out for #CSLDatathon and #CSLHackathon on twitter coming soon!


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Catching up with Runaway Hot Plates

Attached to this link is a PDF version of the poster below on Runaway Hot Plates. This poster was part of the DCHAS collection at the 2017 SciMix sessions in Washington, DC. Questions about the poster should be directed to the authors:

  • Kimberly Brown of the Office of Environmental Health and Radiation Safety at the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA,
  • Mark Mathews of the Environmental Safety and Health Directorate, at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Oak Ridge TN and
  • Joseph Pickel of the Physical Sciences Directorate, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Oak Ridge TN

Developing a Safety Culture

Institutional & Enterprise Level Efforts to Developing a Safety Culture

The Chemical Safety Board: Safety is good business and good policy. V. Sutherland

Safety Googles aren’t for nerds. T. George

Changing the federal oversight model of the Department of Energy National Laboratories. J. McBrearty

Are you prepared for a journey? K. Jeskie

Grassroots Approaches to Developing a Safety Culture

Improving Safety in the Chemical Enterprise Through Transparent Sharing of Best Safety Practices. M. Jones, L. Sellor, Dow

Back to Safety Basics at Northwestern University. M. Blayney

Building a Safety Culture: An Undergrad Perspective N. Fredstrom

Implementation Of Enhanced Science Classroom Safety Standards And Hygiene Plans at the High Chemical School Level B. Kennedy

OSHA’s Voluntary Protection Programs. D. Kalinowski

The Joint Safety Team: A researcher-led initiative for improving academic safety culture C. Gee

Collaborative efforts between faculty and embedded safety professionals to improve critical thinking skills of undergraduates
S. Sigmann

Building a Safety Culture Across the Chemical Enterprise

Building and Promoting SMS in the Federal Government. R. Meidl

Safety training vs safety education N. Bharti

Challenges and Rewards in Enforcing Laboratory Safety – First Year on the Job. R. Malaisamy

Safety Guidelines for the Chemistry Professional. K.P. Fivizzani

Safety Culture Partnering Faculty S. Elwood, R.M. Izzo, K. Angjelo

Development and implementation of a researcher oriented program J.G. Palmer

Establishing a Sustainable Safety Culture in Academic Research Labs. K.A. Miller


Chemicals – The Good, Bad, and the Ugly S.B. Sigmann

Public Perception of the Chemical Enterprise The Good The Bad and the Uncertain. M.E. Jones

ACS role in Communicating chemical safety. J. Kemsley

Developing design principles for ‘lesson learned’ laboratory safety videos. H. Weizman

It’s no accident that many journalists don’t write clearly about lab safety incidents. B. Benderly

Hazmat event reporting in the media. R. Stuart

Risk Communication for the Chemist and Non-Chemist. R. Izzo

Emerging Trends in Research Operations

Emerging Energy Saving Technologies for Laboratories. J. Blount

Safe Application of Filtered Fume Hoods. K. Crooks

iLab operating software materials management. C. Lopes

VOC levels in Solvent Cabinets
A.E. Norton, K. Brown, W.B. Connick, A. Doepke, F. Nourain

Convergence of Research Operations and Safety: A mutually bene cial partnership K. Heard

The Role of the EHS Professional in Laboratory Design M.B. Koza

Taking safety management to the next level: Moving from assumptions to reality. S. Schwartz-Hinds, N. Watson

Designing and operating facilities to support the safe conduct of research activities. J.M. Pickel, K.B. Jeskie

Pharmaceutical industry best practices in lessons learned R.A. Sayle, J.W. May

Personal chemical exposure sensor with indoor positioning and robotics for laboratory safety. K. Brown, A. Brandes, A.E. Norton, P.B. Shaw, D.T. Neu, R. Voorhees

Hydrogen gas lab servers provide many advantages to laboratory operations. J. Speranza

Achieving a Balance Between Expansion and Cost Control – Yale University West Campus Research Operations. C.D. Incarvito

DCHAS Awards and Soft Skills Symposium

Division of Chemical Health & Safety Awards

Making Safety Habits By Finding Your Cues, Routines, and Rewards for Safety  R.H. Hill

The State of the Arts Chemical Safety. M. Rossol

Stanford Safety Culture L.M. Gibbs, R. Furr, M. Dougherty

Soft Skills and Chemical Safety

Be Prepared – Things to do before EHS interactions with lab R.M. Izzo

Leveraging Soft Skills. K. Angjelo

Developing and Maintaining Relationships with Research B.S. Chance

Supporting development of chemical risk assessment skills R. Stuart

Webinar Questions: Risk and Green Chemistry Rating Systems

There were 12 questions about risk and green chemistry rating systems raised by the audience.

These answers are from both Dr, Denlinger and Mr. Stuart; feel free to share your thoughts and follow up questions in the comments section below. (Note: the comments section is moderated, so there may be some time delay before your question shows up.)

1.) Who decides these risk and consequence coefficients – are they in any way standardized?

Kendra’s response: The individual filling out the JHA decides which numbers should go into the risk rating calculation. I think it would be possible to standardize them in some ways (see question 7), but in the end there will always be some differences from one researcher to another.  

Ralph’s additional comment: In an ideal world, we would be able to use statistical analysis of real world incidents to assign these coefficients; however,  adverse lab incidents are not well documented, so such data is not readily available in most cases, particularly in the research setting. For this reason, ultimately, these coefficients will represent human judgements.

However, the goal of the process is to prioritize the hazards of the process so that control measures can be appropriately applied to those hazards. Fortunately, this prioritization can usefully proceed without statistical evidence, by enlisting a qualified team of people to perform the JHA based on their experience with similar processes. 

2.) The JHA shown missed stating the physical electrical hazards.

Kendra’s response: Good point!

Ralph’s additional comment: This is a good example of how safety reviews can benefit from reviews by other people.

3.) Is there any way to scale the green lab and risk assessment process up so that we are evaluating labs or specific projects or students.  Researchers may find the time required to evaluate each reactions prohibitive. 

Kendra’s response: Yes, there probably would be many ways to scale up the risk assessment process in order to save time. However, I would caution against doing so. I found it so interesting and helpful because of the individual nature of the JHA and the fact that it takes some time to fill out completely.

In my experience, too many students are thrown into the lab setting with little training to perform their duties safely, and requiring the JHA before performing something new in the lab would help alleviate this problem because the student is forced to sit down and actually think about what they’re going to do. Furthermore, it seems to me that safety should be a focus of the graduate school experience, so the time spent filling out JHA’s could become part of the process of obtaining a PhD rather than something extra.

Ralph’s additional comments: In the environmental health and safety world, this strategy is called “hazard banding” or “control banding“, depending on the specific application. As you suggest, this approach is driven by resource constraints, so it requires omitting process specific information from the hazard management process. So I agree with Kendra that this approach has to be carefully managed in the academic setting.

In that context, I would like to add that my experience is that safety review of chemical processes become quicker over time, particularly in the context of a specific research program. However, as Kendra suggests,  in the academic research laboratory, focused on the student experience, JHA’s for individual processes are appropriate, as they avoid the “Chinese whispers” or “telephone” problem associated with the oral transmission of process safety knowledge. As Dwight Eisenhower (among others) said: Plans are worthless, but planning is everything. This means to me that the JHA discussion is the point of the exercise, rather than the completed form.

4.) I would encourage you to incorporate a few basic biological parameters into your safety protocols.

Ralph’s response: If you are referring to managing biological hazards used as part of the research process, these are well addressed by Biosafety in Microbiological and Biomedical Laboratories, 5th Edition

5.) How much time does it take for hazard assessment in an organic chem research lab, and What time line do you recommend?  

Kendra’s response: It took me about an hour to fill out my JHA, though it was for an experiment that I’ve performed many times. It would probably take a bit longer for something new, AND it would be important to discuss the experiment with anyone in the lab who has performed it before or used the same chemicals and experimental set-up.

6.) Can this tool be used to define low risk labs and help keep them that way for ventilation savings? 

Kendra’s response: That’s a really interesting question! It seems like it could definitely be adapted for that purpose, though there would need to be some guidelines in place to make sure nothing changes (like ordering a new chemical that is more hazardous than those used in the past).

Ralph’s response: This is an approach that is of great interest to many people.  While at Cornell University, I helped to write an Laboratory Ventilation Management Plan that uses this strategy. In addition, I have published several articles in the Journal of Chemical Health and Safety that describes this approach in the LVMP.

7.) How do you quantify your hazard rating and quantify the probability of occurrence during the hazard analysis? Would each individual have the same risk level or will that vary significantly researcher to researcher? 

Kendra’s response: I assigned risk ratings using my experience in the lab. Newer students would probably need to get help from more senior students or research advisers. It’s also possible their risk ratings would be different because they’re newer to conducting research—they might be more likely to spill a chemical, for example. In this way, JHA’s might vary for one researcher as he or she gains more experience working in the lab.

The risk ratings would probably vary quite a bit from researcher to researcher, though the JHA is meant to be completed and used on more of an individual basis than some of the other hazard assessment tools. It seems like it would be possible to add in some guidelines to aid in conformity, like using SDS terms to correspond to severity of consequences (harmful, toxic, fatal).

Ralph’s comments: My experience has been that variations between researchers occurs when they are making different assumptions about a process. For example, some people might have easy access to a fume hood to perform their chemical work in, while others may not.  This difference can greatly impact the risk ratings and the consequent JHA. Identifying these differences are a key advantage of reviewing the JHA with other chemists.

8.) Has the safety of nano materials been addressed in this type of safety concerns?

Ralph’s comment: Yes, NIOSH, among others, has been conducting significant research into the hazards of nanomaterials. See their Nanotechnology web page for more information on this.

9.) Has an Life Cycle Assessment been conducted on the overall environmental and safety impacts of solvent use vs the alternative reaction methodologies? 

Kendra’s response: I’m not aware of any studies like this.

Ralph’s comment: I suspect that the ACS Green Chemistry institute web site would good place to look for such a LCA.

10.) Green solvent: I think there is exaggeration in using the word green in chemistry, especially solvents used for chromatography. Except for water, I don’t think there is any reagent that one can call “green”. Any thoughts? Thanks a lot 

Kendra’s response: We can really only talk about green chemistry when comparing more than one thing—solvent, reagent, process, etc. There are some cases where using water might be worse than using something else due to the disposal and treatment process. We can’t just look at something and decide that it’s green; we have to have something with which to compare. Toluene isn’t something you might label as being green, but most chemists would agree that it’s greener than using benzene. Even making that small change is better than doing nothing.

11.) Does the ecoscale assign a penalty for fairly benign solvents like water? 

Kendra’s response: No penalty is assigned for the use of water. As far as other solvents go, you can try it yourself using their online calculator! Find it here.

12.) A risk rating of 80 is clearly bad, but does the Hazard Assessment Tool help one evaluate a process involving five RR=10 tasks vs an alternative process involving twenty RR=5 tasks?

Kendra’s response: In and of itself, the JHA does not necessarily help compare a process with an alternative one. Green chemistry metrics can be helpful for comparing two different processes, though there will probably be certain aspects of one that are better and certain aspects of the other that are better.

In some cases, the user’s chemical intuition is the best tool to help decide which route to take after these comparisons have been done. I would probably want to avoid using a particularly hazardous chemical (where severity of consequences would be life-threatening, for example), even if it meant doing 2 or 3 extra steps that were lower risk. In the end, though, it’s going to come down to the individual chemist; the JHA is used to make sure that person knows the risks exist, but it’s up to the individual chemist to decide what to do with that information.

Ralph’s comment: As I suggested above, the research laboratory’s available equipment  and resources will impact  the best strategy for managing chemical hazards, so the ACS tool does not try to address all situations. Rather, it outlines best practices for addressing the issues raised by the Chemical Safety Board’s report on academic laboratory safety.


Webinar Questions: Green Chemistry Techniques

There were 14 Green Chemistry technique questions raised by the audience.

These answers are Dr. Denlinger’s; feel free to share your thoughts and follow up questions in the comments section below. (Note: the comments section is moderated, so there may be some time delay before your question shows up.)

1.) What safety practice is applied when opening the Ball Mill vials after the reaction? 
After taking the vial out of the ball mill, it is usually clamped in a vise and the cap is removed using a wrench. This is also done under a snorkel, since in some cases gas or vapor escapes when the vial is opened.
2.) What is the largest scale at which you have run a ball milled reaction? 
The largest scale I’ve personally run one of my reactions produced 500 mg of my desired product. Our standard stainless steel vials are about 3.5 mL in volume, and our large stainless steel vials are about 64 mL in volume.
3.) What are the limitations or downfalls to ball-milling?
It would be difficult to perform a reaction that required a gas as a reagent, since we rely on the motion of the ball to grind our reagents together during ball milling (though there are also advantages to this: see “Conducting moisture sensitive reactions under mechanochemical conditions”). Creative solutions might be found, though, such as using dry ice as a CO2 source (see “The solvent-free and catalyst-free conversion of an aziridine to an oxazolidinone using only carbon dioxide”). We have also tried reactions that occur through radical mechanisms and have not had any success with those yet.
4.) What about oxidizers?
One of my projects is the oxidation of alcohols under ball milling conditions, and several oxidizing agents were tested (ex. TEMPO, Oxone®, mCPBA). No accidents have ever occurred, and nothing was out of the ordinary with these reactions as compared with others that did not involve oxidizing agents.
5.) I assume based on reactivity arguments that there are some reactions that may not be amenable to solvent-free solid state reactions.  Have you encountered such situations (reactions that went out of control, etc.)? 
We haven’t encountered any reactions that went out of control in our system. For the most part, the research process is the same for us as any other organic chemists. We try something, and if it doesn’t work at all or we observe low conversion to product, we change the system and try again. There are certainly reagents that we would not put into a ball mill, but in those cases we look for safer alternatives that can carry out the same transformation (using Cs2CO3 as the base for the Wittig reaction instead of n-BuLi is one example).
6.) I am using THF for GPC, how can I change that to a GC solvent? 
The simplest change you can make is to switch to 2-methyl-THF, but there are some other options available if that wouldn’t work for you (see “Updating and further expanding GSK’s solvent sustainability guide “ for examples).

7.) How easy to separate solid solid compared to liquid liquid in terms of green chemistry?
We still use solvent to extract our reaction mixtures from our vials, so for separations it’s a matter of choosing a solvent that will dissolve the product. Solvent selection guides can be used to help make the greenest choice possible for separations, especially if chromatography has to be used. I’m working on my project with polymer resins so that we can green up the separation process as much as possible. Avoiding solvent for the reaction phase of the process still helps prevent waste, but we also want to expand that philosophy as much as we can to the isolation/purification process.

8.) How difficult is material removal from the Ball Mill vials?  Does it require any liquid aids?
Removal of material from the ball mill vials is not that difficult as long as an appropriate solvent is chosen (see question 7). Yes, we do use solvent to aid the removal of material from the vials and subsequent isolation (whether it’s gravity filtration, liquid-liquid extraction, or chromatography).

9.) Has anyone assessed particle exposure around the ball-milling set-up?

No, but that might be a good thing to analyze just to make sure we have the safest set-up possible. We usually tighten the caps onto the vials with a wrench to ensure no reactants leak out, but it is possible to smell highly volatile reagents while they are being ball milled. That definitely indicates that vapor at least is able to escape, so very small particles might be able to escape as well.

10.) Ball-milling – I have heard of but never tried it – is it truely a solid-solid reaction or is it more like a melt where under heat/friction you get a liquid phase?
Our indirect evidence suggests that our reagents react with each other whether or not they melt under our conditions. Using an iButton to measure the temperature of the vial during the reaction indicates that the vial reaches a temperature of about 45°C. So any reagents with melting points lower than that are probably melting, but anything with a melting point higher than that probably is remaining as a solid.

11.) Are the polymer resins you’re using recyclable? 
Yes! For the Wittig reaction, we don’t reuse the polymer because it has changed from triphenylphosphine to triphenylphosphine oxide. For some of my other projects, however, a catalyst is attached to the polymer. This catalyst is not used up or changed during the reaction, so I can scrape it off the filter paper after gravity filtration, save it, and use it again. In one project it is possible to use the same polymer-bound catalyst sample at least 5 times with no change in its activity.

12.) Are the ball mills safe when dealing with crystal morphologies and materials that could decompose explosively (shock)?
I have not used any reagents that would fall into that category, and in general we try to find alternative routes in order to avoid specifically hazardous chemicals. There is one example of using azides under ball milling conditions (see “Scratching the catalytic surface of mechanochemistry: a multi-component CuAAC reaction using a copper reaction vial”), and no safety issues arose.

13.) A sequestering solid support will not have much resolving power for separating related components so it has limited utility BUT more importantly a lot of solvent goes in to making these resins so it is questionable how green they are – have you done such an analysis?
These solid-supported reagents are tools in the green chemistry toolbox—they cannot be applied in every chemical process, but there are certainly many processes that would benefit from them. In cases where a reaction or process would not benefit from a re-design using solid-supported reagents, other tools in the green chemistry toolbox could be applied. This might consist of choosing safer solvents, choosing different reagents, using photochemistry or microwave chemistry, or any of the myriad ideas published in journals such as Green Chemistry and ACS Sustainable. The fact that we cannot fix everything immediately does not mean that we shouldn’t try to fix what we can. Even making a small change to be safer or greener is better than what we were doing before, and making many of these small changes can result in a big change overall.

Not only is solvent used to make these resins, but many other reagents that may or may not be particularly safe are used as well. My work on the Wittig reaction was an extension of a proof-of-principle project to understand how these solid-supported reagents behave under ball milling conditions. In order to address the problem you mentioned, I also investigated the possibility of using ball milling to functionalize a polymer itself. This would give us more control over the greenness of the functionalization process. Furthermore, I investigated using a polysaccharide backbone instead of polystyrene, so that the solid support employed would be biodegradable and derived from renewable resources. We plan to publish that work this summer.

14.) what amount (mass) of reagents are used in ball mills?
The amount used can vary from one ball milling group to another, but in our group we usually try to work on the 1 mmol scale (so producing about 100-200 mg of product, depending of course on the specific compound). We can vary that number a bit, but we are constrained to the approximately 3.5 mL volume of the regularly used stainless steel vials.


Safety Resources for the Rainbow and Other Chemical Demonstrations

Safety Alert: The Rainbow Demonstration

National Science Teachers Association:

The Chemical Safety Board (CSB)  video showing consequences of the methanol-related experiments:

CSB’s safety bulletin on the rainbow experiment based on the investigations of the Reno, NV, and Denver, CO, methanol flash fires in 2014:

C&EN Safety Zone Blog list of K-12 educational school museum likely alcohol fire incidents

DCHED Safety Guidelines for Chemical Demonstrations

Safety Data Sheets: Information that Could Save Your Life

Safe Transportation Recommendations for Chemicals Used in Demonstrations or Educational Activities

Five Key Questions for Safe Research and Demos