Thursday, November 25, 2010

The Neverending Argument

We are having a re-evaluation here at Liberal Arts U. about safety apparel. I am reminded of a discussion I had with a British professor who had come to Canada just after the Second World War as part of the large contingent of second tier academics that came to teach the North American boomers. In a comment to me he said (referring to Canadians) “We first had to talk them out of the trees and teach them to wear clothes before we could teach them chemistry”. Lovely sentiment that, Rule Britannia!


Anyway, I cannot convince the Biologists that wearing safety clothing is like wearing a car seatbelt … 99% of the time it is an unnecessary inconvenience and 1% of the time it is the only guarantee that there will be a next generation of Liberal Arts Biologists. And the cavalier way they handle chemicals like acrylamide and ethidium bromide makes me despair. I have persuaded them to wear disposable gloves most of the time (but I think CSI convinced them more than I ever did that someone could look hot, do science and wear gloves).

In any event the current argument is over goggles and I am seriously thinking of making a pragmatic retreat on this one. The uber-safe, clamped to the skin, scuba goggles just will not fly with the Biologists and we have agreed that we will not make the students purchase separate safety gear for the different Science labs so it looks like we are heading towards a lightweight, polycarbonate clear vision safety goggle that does not touch skin around the perimeter.


The convincing argument that the Biologists gave me was that if we went for the safe goggles the students (actual meaning: the Biology professors) would not ever wear them but if we go for the second option there is a good chance that they at least would wear them propped up on their foreheads or dangling on lanyards. Sigh.

3 comments:

Not a wine critic said...

We don't do splash goggles either. We require impact-rated safety glasses with side shields, and we require that they be worn.

They don't fog up, and they do protect. If you're doing something that the glasses won't protect you from, you need to be wearing a face shield or using a blast shield.

if we go for the second option there is a good chance that they at least would wear them propped up on their foreheads or dangling on lanyards

Zero tolerance, my friend. Students get one reminder. Then they get ejected from lab for the week, and missing a lab automatically lowers their semester grade AFTER the zero for the lab has been counted.

Liberal Arts Chemist said...

Yeah, I hear you brother (?), on my side of the corridor it is all Crime and Punishment on lab safety issues. My problem however is the *faculty* on the Biology side of the corridor. Even the students laugh about the difference crossing the corridor. On the "Biology side" labcoats, if worn, are unbuttoned and lab glasses are optional. I have seen one Biology professor teach her lab in a revealing formal dress because she had a date after the lab so how do you push a safety message to the students through that? I have to wait until the inevitable accident and kick them when they are down?

Not a wine critic said...

You don't have to wait for an accident to enforce safety rules. I send students back home to change shoes if they wear flip-flops or clogs to lab. I send students back to change clothes if their clothes don't fit the safety rules. I make students put their hair up if it's down when they come to lab. And I enforce the wearing of safety glasses on the face, not on the forehead and certainly not on the benchtop.

I also offer them 5 points if they catch me in violation.

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For a while it was all about research and then it was all about teaching and now it's all about trying to find a balance while teaching at a small liberal arts and science university.