Safety News: October 2016

Secure Your Personal Property
Campus is a busy place. Be sure to secure your personal property or keep it with you. Don't leave laptops, smartphones, or other valuables unattended. Lock your office and lab doors when the rooms are not in use.

Working with Highly Flammable Solvents
This summer, a fire occurred involving a chemistry researcher who was working with diethyl ether. The researcher was performing a purification of a crude product inside a fume hood using diethyl ether as a solvent. An oil bath, placed on a hot plate, was being used to heat the mixture. The incident occurred when a flame rapidly ignited both the surface of the oil bath and the crude mixture in the flask. The flask shattered and spread the burning mixture in a four-inch radius around the hot plate.

Safety takeaways from the incident: 

  1. Always wear appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE). When working with highly flammable solvents, always use a flame-retardant lab coat and safety glasses.
  2. For a small-scale purification involving highly flammable solvents such as ether, pentane, and/or acetone, using a water bath is recommended.
  3. The first time you use a highly flammable solvent, conduct a hazard assessment prior to beginning your experiment.

Related resources:

  1. Learn more about hot plate safety on the EH&S website. 
  2. Familiarize yourself with the fundamentals of hazard assessment and review methods for conducting hazard assessments.

University of Hawaii Fined $115,500 for Lab Explosion
Investigators identified 15 workplace safety violations in the recent University of Hawaii lab explosion, in which a postdoctoral researcher lost an arm. Read the full list of violations in this C&EN article.


Please contact Professor Ive Hermans (, Safety Committee chair, or Jeff Nielsen ( with questions related to safety.

Visit the Safety webpage to learn about department policies and resources related to safety.

Contact Name: 
Ive Hermans
Contact Email: