We did some of our safety training today, from 8:00 to about 3:30. Actually, the forklift training happened at the end but I skipped it. If your straits are so dire that you have your lab manager driving a forklift you have bigger problems than her training. The day started with fire safety training and the ritual lining up to discharge a fire extinguisher and then continued with the safety presentations got up by the members of the management group. Mine was hazard communication: labels, MSDSs, and so forth. We also had slips, trips, and falls, bloodborne pathogens, housekeeping, signs including lockout/tagout, and electrical safety. We ordered pizza in but didn't really stop for lunch. For some reason this wore my butt out. I am tireder than if I'd spent the day on my feet in the lab.
I'm always kind of irritated by the absolute statements that some people insist on. Our EHS person, when we had one, would always chant, "You can't pour any chemicals down the drain," shaking his head from side to side. Well, water is a chemical. Could you pour a 0.000001% solution of table salt in water down the drain? Of course you could. So can we have a discussion of what you can actually pour down the drain? Evidently not.
On fire extinguishers, one might initially be trained that you always call 911 for any fire before you start trying to put it out, regardless of how big it is. Okay, I'll say it: that's stupid. We worked it out that if it's a fire you are utterly convinced that you can put out with one brief squirt of a fire extinguisher, then you can do that and call 911 afterward if need be.
And then there's the mandate to report ANY spill or release. So if my methanol squeezebottle dribbles a couple of drops out onto the benchtop and they evaporate immediately, I have to report that? We got that worked out too. I did remind the guys that we don't need to improvise when we're trying to remediate a spill. I have some material in the lab for the purpose of cleaning up acid spills. It's labeled for that. I happen to know that you can use sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) but the stuff that's labeled for it is formulated to absorb it and deal with it without much of a reaction. But I've known of people who tried to remediate an acid spill with sodium hydroxide and this is a bad idea: you get a violent reaction, lots of heat and choky fumes.
Bloodborne pathogens - you're supposed to report ANY injury. I nick my finger on a piece of glassware and a drop of blood oozes out - I have to report that? The accounting clerk gets a papercut and puts a bandaid on it, and she must report it? Well, no.
I think these things are like zero tolerance. They come about because person X doubts person Y's judgment and allotment of common sense. Well, sadly, I sympathize, but rules that reasonably can't be followed all the time quickly become ignored even when they can and should be followed. So this absolute stuff is actually counterproductive to what the safety program should accomplish.