Physician Practice

Fanning the flames: Laboratory fires are a real danger

Medical Environment Update, November 1, 2017

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Preparation is vital; that means staff training

In this guest column, Dan Scungio, MT(ASCP), SLS, laboratory safety officer for Sentara Healthcare in Virginia and otherwise known as “Dan, the Lab Safety Man,” discusses the important issues that affect your job every day.

The fire started in the university chemistry laboratory when a research student used a flammable chemical too close to an open flame. It started as a relatively small fire, and if the student had been given fire safety training, he might have known how to handle it safely. Feeling that it was a better idea to leave, the student went and called the fire department.

The fire grew because of the large volume of flammable chemicals stored inside the department. By the time the fire department arrived, an entire wing of the building was engulfed in flames. The fire chief first went to meet with school representatives and quickly asked for an inventory of the chemicals used in the department. When the university could not provide it, the chief stated that he could not let his firefighters enter the building without knowing the dangers within.

Elsewhere, in a large hospital histology lab, it was common practice to place the large carboys of methanol on the shelf above the work space. A rubber hose was attached to the carboy, and a clip was placed on the end so that it was easy to pour out the chemical as needed. One day when the tech was working, she went to unclip the rubber hose, but ended up detaching the clip completely. The methanol freely ran out of the tube as it swung back and forth.

This is an excerpt from a member only article. To read the article in its entirety, please login or subscribe to Medical Environment Update.

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