Laboratory safety for chemistry students

Laboratory safety for chemistry students 

Robert H Hill and David C Finster

Chichester, UK: John Wiley 2010 | 546pp | ?40.50 (SB)

ISBN 9780470344286

Reviewed by Hugh Cartwright 

REVIEWS - p55b-180

Few chemists find that laboratory safety sets the pulses racing. This seems to be particularly true of undergraduates, who may regard a knowledge of safety procedures as just one more hurdle to be jumped over (or skirted around) on the way to getting their chemistry practical course out of the way.

The omens look poor, then, for Laboratory safety for chemistry students, especially since texts that focus on the undergraduate laboratory do not have a strong record of commercial success. But Hill and Finster’s book is a pleasant surprise. No superficial scan of safety topics, or a dull recitation of rules and legislation, this substantial and engaging text offers a wealth of practical (in every sense of the word) advice. 

Each section opens with a sketch of a real incident, from minor fires to serious accidents in which workers suffered disabling injury or death. These sobering, and occasionally catastrophic, incidents serve to focus the reader’s mind on what went wrong and what can be learnt. There are sections on ionizing radiation, incompatible chemicals, bioaccumulation, protective gloves, mercury poisoning, ventilation, cryogens, solvent fires, and many more topics.   

Each section concludes with references and a set of questions, which can be used to test whether the preceding discussion has been fully understood. The authors are American, so where legislation is discussed there are occasional differences between US and European practice, but any differences do not divert attention from the fundamental aim of the book, to explain how students can identify and manage safety concerns. 

This authoritative and clearly-written book is full of relevant and important material. Every undergraduate laboratory, and, ideally, every undergraduate chemist, should have a copy of what is by some distance the best book I have seen on safety in the undergraduate laboratory. 

Further Reading

Other related books

T S S Dikshith, Safe use of chemicals   (2008, CRC Press) (ISBN 9781420080513) 
A K Furr, CRC Handbook of laboratory safety  (5th edition 2000, CRC Press) (ISBN 9780849325236) 
R J Alaimo, Handbook of chemical health and safety  (2001, American Chemical Society) (ISBN 9780841236707)