“Notice the Safety” and other musings

Lunchtime reading today involved the Guardian Science Blog where – under a story about the election (is there nothing else going on in the World today?) – was a post by Dean Burnett…Science is boring (except when it isn’t).

It’s a good read, and would have been recommended #lunchtimereading if I wan’t having lunch at 2.30pm. Instead I find myself trawling the internet for the best Health and Safety accident reports because, as Dean said, if ‘what to do upon accidental anal administration of HCl‘ is listed on the chemical safety sheet then we must come…

“… to only one possible conclusion; this has actually happened to someone.”

Only one Lab Accident away from Super Powers Funny Novelty T Shirt Z11892If you cut your finger, or sustain any injury, in the lab it should be reported; filling out a form and handing it in so, once a month, members of the Health and Safety committee can meet and discuss how to prevent such accidents happening again. Not only this, we are told to be vigilant in the lab and building for potential hazards, something that may happen but hasn’t happened yet. The hope is that someone will get round to sorting it before someone gets hurt.

Our lab technician sits on the Health and Safety committee, I asked her for the funniest report she had seen. Her response, a potential hazard report from one of the lab corridors about a slip that could have ended in injury. The substance on the floor – custard. The committee decided to write that…

“any spill, particularly of slippery substances such as custard, should be cleaned up immediately.”

This isn’t health and safety gone mad; it’s a good thing, most of the time. We’ve just stopped noticing.

I think I would know where a fire extinguisher was if it had this sign.

Funny safety advice extends into everyone’s lives- clearly the writers were under the assumption that everyone is a moron when they wrote these: ‘Use like regular soap‘ on a bar of soap, ‘Do not iron clothes on body‘ in the instruction manual for an iron, and my favourite ‘May contain nuts‘ on a packet of peanuts. Then there are bad translations such as these from Chinese warning signs:

  • ‘Take care, fall into water carefully!’
  • ‘Caution, butt head against the wall’
  • ‘Execution in progress‘ (this one should have read work in progress)
  • ‘Keep clean. Don’t stampede!’
  • ‘Please don’t cross any railings lest suddenness happens!’

But then perhaps not all of these bad translations are in fact bad – maybe we should “Notice the Safety”. I have recently moved lab and as the fire extinguisher does not have a giant “hand grenade” sign above it I do not yet know where it is. On my way back to my bench I shall make sure I know where, and what type, it is. Won’t my health and safety officer be proud!

Read about the hazards of doing a PhD by following Beckie on Twitter at @beckieport. WARNING: Science in progress


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