Workshops, manual...Delhi University looks anew at lab safety
The radiation leak fiasco in Delhi that claimed one life was a "wake-up call" for Delhi University. Its chemistry department, which came under heavy fire for the incident, is now working on a three-pronged strategy to make lab safety a primary concern.delhi Updated: Jun 02, 2010 11:38 IST
The radiation leak fiasco in Delhi that claimed one life was a "wake-up call" for Delhi University. Its chemistry department, which came under heavy fire for the incident, is now working on a three-pronged strategy to make lab safety a primary concern.
"Lab safety has taken a whole new meaning after the Cobalt-60 incident...it has come like a wake-up call for us because precautions and lab safety are not always taken very seriously," A.K. Bakshi, who was appointed head of the department of chemistry after the radiation leak, told IANS.
"We have realised that we should not wait for another accident to happen and therefore have come up with a three-pronged strategy to ensure that lab safety is not compromised by anyone and at any cost," Bakshi said.
The source of the leak at a scrap market in west Delhi's Mayapuri area - in which one person was killed and six were affected - was a radioactive gamma cell containing Cobalt-60 that was auctioned as scrap by Delhi University's chemistry department over two months ago.
The incident posed serious questions on the usage, storage and disposal of radioactive material which are often used for experiments in chemistry labs.
Bakshi said: "As part of the strategy, we will first have a series of workshops - initially for the teachers of the university on lab safety. Experts will be called from various institutions at these workshops. Teachers already know what precautions need to be taken, but these will simply brush up their skills and help them train the students better."
The workshops will also touch upon the subject of disposal of chemical and radioactive waste, as well as their storage and usage.
"Besides students, the special and formal training will also help teachers impart knowledge to the laboratory staff better, as they are the ones who spend the most amount of time in the labs," he added.
The workshops, Bakshi said, will be conducted before the academic session begins in July.
A lab safety manual which charts out the dos and don'ts while conducting an experiment is also being prepared. This will be for both the undergraduate and the post graduate levels.
"I am even thinking of suggesting that in the chemistry practical exams, some marks should be reserved for a student's discipline in following the safety manual through the year. This will make students more aware and careful," Bakshi told IANS.
Uploading e-learning material on lab safety, how to handle various chemicals and apparatus and other such things on the university's newly launched e-learning portal is the third strategy.
"Considering that lab staff is the backbone of maintaining a laboratory, I am also thinking of instituting an award for the best maintained lab. This will motivate the staff to keep the lab clean, mark the chemical bottles and ensure the overall safety," he added.
"We have more than 100 chemistry labs in different colleges in the university and 3,000-4,000 students. Through all these initiatives we just want to make the students feel they are cared for and that the labs are a safe place to work and learn in," Bakshi said.