6 Accidental Discoveries (Part 2)

November 17, 2010 by

Last week we covered the bottom of the list in our blog of top accidental discoveries.  This week we round off the rest of our list with our top two:

3. Things that make you go boom:

In some situations it may be ok to be a little clumsy in the lab.  Maybe you’re experimenting with making pillows softer.  But when your experiments deal primarily with nitroglycerine, safety should be somewhere near the top of the list on your daily activities.  In 1860 Swiss chemist Alfred Nobel was doing just that (the experiments with nitroglycerine, not the safety).  Nitroglycerine had only recently been discovered by Italian chemist Ascanio Sobrero (and you thought Italians were only good for spaghetti and fist pumping).

A very serious situation

Nitroglycerin is a powerful explosive that had the potential to be used in many applications. The problem was that nitroglycerine was extremely volatile, any slight shock applied to it and you no longer had any nitroglycerine, instead all you had a bunch of pieces of people who were unfortunate enough to be around it at the time, which have considerably less applications.  Nobel, throwing caution to the wind decided to walk where others, who had blown their legs off, could no longer trod.  Not content to simply mess around with a little nitroglycerin here and there Nobel went all out and opened his own nitroglycerin factory!  Despite many setbacks (of which included his brother and four of his employees blowing up, followed shortly there after by having to relocate his factory due to a new law that no longer allowed explosive factories to be within the city limits) Nobel pressed on in his endeavor to find a safe way to use nitroglycerin.  This endeavor nearly came to a sudden stop  in 1866 when Nobel let a test tube of nitroglycerin slip from his hand.  With gravity now in control of the vial of exploding death Nobel watched as the remainder  of his life slowly fell towards the floor then… Nothing happened.  The test tube happen to land in a crate full of sawdust .  After a quick prayer and trip to the mens room to clean himself up [citation needed] Nobel returned to find that the nitroglycerine had poured out of the test tube and was absorbed by the sawdust forming a malleable putty.  Realizing this had made the nitroglycerine more stable he began experimenting by mixing it with other substances.  He eventually used silica to mix with nitroglycerin with and was able to form a stable paste that could be molded into a cylindrical shape, wrapped in paper  and detonated with use of a blasting cap.  Dynamite was born.


Black Dynamite wouldn't be born until nearly a century later but proved to be more dangerous than regular dynamite.

2/1. The Fungus Among Us:

Alexander Fleming tops our list for multiple reason:  The fact that he actually made two accidental discoveries and the utter sloppiness in which he made them.  Alexander Fleming was a brilliant Scottish scientist who was renowned for work in developing new antiseptics, and for having a very messy lab.

Not the type of messy lab that I'm referring to.

Years before he made the monumental discovery that won him the Nobel Prize (named after the above Alfred Nobel. The guy who liked blowing things up) Fleming accidentally sneezed into a petri dish laced with bacteria.  Instead of throwing the sample out Fleming shrugged his shoulders, cited some sort of laboratory three-second rule and kept the bacteria/snot laden petri dish.  Several days later Fleming noticed that the bacteria in the dish had been destroyed by the mucus.  What Fleming had stumbled upon was lysozyme, a naturally occurring enzyme found in all bodily fluids that has antibacterial properties.  But lysozyme is like a fifth grade bully: It has no problem pushing down little girl bacteria on the playground but gets pummeled by the stronger, upper class bacteria.  So Fleming continued his work to  find  a stronger antiseptic.

Take that you glycoside hydrolases enzyme.... Yeah

By 1928 Fleming was busy studying the properties of Staphylococcus Aureus. Busy that was until it came time for vacation at the beginning of August.  So Fleming tidied up his lab, stored all his samples safely away and was careful to… No wait, that’s not what he did.  What he did do was to hastily throw all petri dishes containing the dangerous bacteria in the sink of his lab before running out the door while yelling “Fleming out!”.  When he returned to his lab on the 3rd of September (yes of the same year) he found what you would expect to find on any dishes left in the sink for nearly a month.  He found mold.  But on closer inspection he noticed that the fungus now growing in his petri dishes had destroyed the staphylococci bacteria.  He identified the mold growing in the dish as the common fungus Penicillium notarum and in one of the greatest feats of creativity ever recorded named the new antibacterial substance penicillin.  Fleming’s discovery marked the beginning of modern antibiotics and has been used treat countless infections, saving countless lives. Way to go Alexander!

Neil Hessenflow is the Director of Communications for TrippNT


Life Hacks

September 29, 2010 by

According to the new standard for information, Wikipedia (in which the articles may or may not be written by a 13 year old who is buzzed off of Mountain Dew and Skittles), the definition for a life hack is anything that solves an everyday problem in a clever or non-obvious way. At TrippNT we are all about finding new and interesting ways for increasing efficiency and organization.  So in this spirit here are a few clever and fun ways at hacking your life:

Closet Control:

Running out of room in your closet?  Hang your clothes in your closet backwards (with the top of the hanger facing the opposite direction of what you would normally hang it).  When you go to remove the clothes from the hanger turn the hanger around to face the direction opposite of the other hangers.  By the end of the season you will be able to see which articles of clothing that you didn’t wear (the ones on the hangers facing the original direction).  Remove those clothes from the closet and donate them, because hey, homeless people like to be fashionable too.

Lock Block:

Car locks frozen?  Use alcohol.

Especially if you're driving a Delorean.

Not the alcohol that you are thinking of.  Squirt a little instant hand sanitizer in your locks.  The high alcohol content of the hand sanitizer will help to unfreeze them.

Where is Thumbkin:

If you have thumbdrive (sometimes called a jumpdrive)  place a file on it labeled  identification.txt that contains your contact information in it.  This way if you lose your thumbdrive the hopefully honest person who finds it will be able to return it to you.

Going up:

Sometimes you just need to get to your floor in a hurry and you don’t have the time to wait on the other annoying people who got on the elevator before you.  With this quick hack you can tell the elevator to skip the the other selected floors and go immediately to the floor that you want to go to.  Simply press the door close button at the same time that you press the button of your desired floor and voila!  The elevator skips the other selected floors and takes you directly to your destination.  Hopefully it’s not too long of a ride though because you are certain to have an elevator full of people who are unhappy with you.


Give Yourself a Hand:

Situations arise where it is helpful to have an idea of how long something is.  But often we don’t have a tape measure of ruler readily available to take a measurement with.  In these situations it would be nice to have an instrument for measuring that is always with you, say like your hands.  Use a ruler to measure the overall length of your hand (from your fingertip to the bottom of your palm).  You will then be able to use your hand as a rudimentary ruler.  For smaller measurements a good rule of thumb (yes, the pun was intentional) is that the distance between the joints of your index finger are about an inch in length.  You can use the creases on the bottom of your finger like the lines on a ruler.

Can be used to measure your friend's face!

Neil Hessenflow is the Director of Communications for TrippNT

The Five Traps that Create Lab Accidents and How to Eliminate Them: Part II.

September 28, 2010 by

On my continued quest to discover The Five Traps that Create Lab Accidents and How to Eliminate Them, we move on to number two:  Muscle Pulls, Sprains and Strains.

According to 2008 statistics from the Bureau of Labor Statistics these are the top five causes of laboratory accidents:

1.  Falls (26,230) – See post from August 25, 2010.

2.  Muscle pulls, sprains, strains (24,540)

3.  Overexertion (22,850)

4.  Struck by an object (10,950)

5.  Caught in or compressed by an object (7,280)

Who hasn’t pulled a muscle or strained themselves at one time or another?  Seems like it’s always caused by an unforeseen lift, pull, push or movement that results in a painful injury that lasts way too long.  I see people do it all the time.  They don’t plan ahead.  They lift a box to move it without preparing the landing site.  They want to “be cool” and do something for which they really aren’t in the right physical condition. They just don’t think!  Your body is only human.  Oh yeah, I’m guilty of doing it.  I’ve done it.  Yup. So what exactly is IT?

Muscle fiber swelling from strain

Strained muscles fibers are swollen and inflamed.

A muscle pull is a tear in the muscle fibers.  You will know it’s happened because it’s painful, it limits your motion and you are stiff.  It can happen to your legs, arms, back, hands, fingers, neck or abdomen.  In the laboratory one of the most frequent injuries is from manual pipetting.  The injuries are typically caused by repetition, awkward posture, and the excessive use of thumb force. They are preventable if you are aware of  your posture and hand position.  It’s kind of like lifting boxes with a straight back using the knees instead of your back.  If you use your hand and thumb correctly you will protect yourself from pipetting injury.

And of course, there are always the “they aren’t your fault” injuries: car accidents, whiplash, ergonomic factors, repetitive movements, heavy backpacks and other sources of strain.  How are we supposed to prevent all of these?  Drink more alcohol?  No, No, No!

Our bodies have limitations.

The Human Body Is Not a Rubber Band

To help prevent a pulled muscle do these three things.

1.  Ask yourself honestly if you are in shape to execute the task or activity.  Reality is the key word here.  Only YOU know the answer.  If you don’t know – find out.  Don’t kid yourself.

2.  Prepare your body for the movement. Stretch and warm up if necessary.  It doesn’t take that long and other’s will follow your lead.

3.  Execute at a pace that allows you to evaluate the effect of the movement and stop if it’s beyond your capability.  Live defensively, drive carefully and take responsibility.

Then pat yourself on the unstrained back.

Susan Tripp is the President and CEO of TrippNT

It’s Not Just a Pen

September 8, 2010 by

When I started working at TrippNT just over a year ago one of the perks of the job was a pen. That’s right, a pen.  My thoughts about the pen were “Okay, whatever.” I was instructed to make a label with my name on it and carefully wrap it around the barrel of the pen so I along with everyone else would know that this pen belonged to me. I was also informed at the time that blue ink is the required color to use. I love blue ink, but still did not give the pen much thought. I, like anyone who has ever started a new job, had a lot to learn and not much time to devote to the idea of a simple pen.

As I progressed through the learning process I used that pen everyday. I found myself putting the pen in a special place in the desk drawer so I would be sure to find it the next morning. Sure enough every morning one of the first things I did was to get my pen out and click the silver button on the end of if to produce the writing point. The first time it ran out of ink, I learned what replacement cartridge it needed and I guarantee you; we can run out of anything else in the office, but we will always have ink for this pen.

After a couple of months I realized that I had become rather attached to the pen in a very possessive way. I panicked when I had buried it under a stack of papers one day and couldn’t find it. I realized I had to be careful when I presented it to someone to obtain a needed signature. There are a few pen “cleptos” in the office (You know who you are).

Someone (I won’t name names) accidentally took my pen home for a long weekend. It was their long weekend, not mine therefore I had to get through an entire day of work without my pen. It was that day that I realized how fond I am of that pen. It’s not just any pen. It is a “Pilot Dr. GRIP gel” pen. It is a luxurious metallic silver barrel pen. It has an ergonomic cushion grip to alleviate writing fatigue. The ink is smooth writing, smear proof, acid free and archival safe gel ink. There’s nothing more to ask for in a pen.  But most importantly, it was my pen.

At my suggestion, we got permission from the boss to buy several other employees the same type of pen (I did this in part in the hopes that people would quit taking my pen). Theirs were a different color so it’s easier for us to know whose pen is whose. I suppose your asking how one pen could possibly be so much to a person. Well, I am the crazy accountant and other than the computer the pen is my most important piece of equipment. I rely on the pen to complete my assigned daily tasks. I’m sure you must have an important tool that you use on a regular basis.

I started thinking about the carts that our customers purchase and realized that they are sort of like my pen.  No they are not smooth writing (they are smooth rolling though).  But just like my pen, their cart is an important  piece of equipment in their daily jobs.  I’m sure many of them have grown attached to their cart, protective of it, and if for some reason they find that it is no longer available to them they are lost without it.   For these people it’s not just a cart, it’s more like a coworker.

Carol Swindler is the Director of Accounting for TrippNT

6 Accidental Discoveries (Part 1).

September 2, 2010 by

At TrippNT our business is organization.  We believe that an organized laboratory is a safer, happier laboratory and in general creates a better atmosphere for scientific discovery. However there are some cases where complete disorganization, mistakes and a good old “lets just try this and see what happens” attitude have lead to some of the most important discoveries ever made.  Such as…

6. The Fountain of Youth and the Fourth of July:

China has always epitomized the idea of “lets just do it and see where it goes”.  This is no more evident than when they started building a wall to protect the northern boundaries of their country and ended up with a five thousand mile long wonder of the world.

That's a really great wall

So in the ninth century when a group of Chinese alchemists got together to do what it is alchemists do, create an “elixir of immortality” of course, it should be no real surprise when they just started mixing together random things to see what happened.  They soon began heating together a combination of saltpeter, sulfur, realgar and honey (all of which the Chinese knew had some medicinal properties).  What they got was less of an elixir of immortality and a lot more of burnt hands and smoke in their face.  What these alchemists had stumbled upon is what is what we know today as gunpowder.  The Chinese quickly figured out that they could use this newfound discovery to scare the pants off their enemies by loading the gunpowder in rockets and shooting them in their general direction.

Uh oh!

Centuries later we use a more refined version of this alchemist elixir in our own rockets to celebrate the Fourth of July.

5. Glowing Urine…What?:

Every now and again a scientist comes along and conducts an experiment that leaves you saying “why would you do that?”  German alchemist Hennig Brand is one of those scientists.  Mr. Brand, in good old alchemist tradition (what is it with these guys?) was searching for what is referred to in alchemist lore as the Philosopher’s Stone, a substance that would turn normal base metals into gold.  For whatever reason Brand had an idea that the mystical Philosopher’s Stone may be urine.  Yes, urine.  Having formed his postulate: Urine makes regular metal in to golden metal, one might think that he would follow through with the scientific method by simply going out back and urinating on the first piece of lead that he came across and after seeing that what he had was not a piece of gold but instead a wet, disgusting piece of lead he would have shrugged his shoulders and called it a day.  That wasn’t Brand’s style though.  Instead he jumped on the crazy train and rode it until it went well off the deep end.  Brand began storing buckets of urine in his cellar until he had accumulated around fifty buckets worth!   Next he did the only logical thing a man with fifty buckets of urine could do:  He boiled it.

17th century R Kelley... With a better beard.

After reducing it to some sort of urine residue, he heated the residue in a retort.  What resulted was a white, waxy substance that would emit a greenish glow in the dark and spontaneously burst into flames.  Brand had failed to make gold but had instead produced phosphorus, a chemical element found commonly in many household items including detergents and toothpaste.   Don’t worry, the process for producing phosphorus today is different. There is no urine in your toothpaste.

4. A Slick Discovery:

In the late 1930’s a young chemist named Roy Plunkett was working in the labs at DuPont with a new type of chlorofluorocarbon (CFC) called Tetraflouroethylene (TFE).  His goal was to produce a new kind of refrigerant to… refrigerate things?  Plunkett ordered a bunch of TFE and stored the gas in pressurized cylinders until it was time to do scientific stuff with it.  When he and his assistant, Jack Rebok (not the shoe person) went to discharge the gas from the pressurized cylinder nothing came out.  This problem undoubtedly generated a lot of confusion and chin rubbing.  So Plunkett, in order to get to the bottom of this mystery, did the only safe, reasonable thing he could think to do:  He decided to cut open the cylinder of flammable, pressurized, gas to see what was in there besides maybe a large, skin graft inducing explosion.  Much to his delight when he opened the canister he found no explosion, and no gas.  Instead he found the canister was now full of a white powdery substance (no not cocaine).

Party time!

Using science, Plunkett discovered that placing the TFE under pressure had caused it to polymerize thereby making it into an even longer and even more unpronounceable word, polytetrafluoethylene (PTFE).  Plunkett began conducting experiments with the new polymer and found that it was non-reactive, had an extremely high melting point and that nothing would stick to it.  Plunkett showed it to his superiors and by 1941 DuPont began mass producing PTFE and had patented it under the name Teflon.  Today Teflon is widely used in aerospace, communication, and electronics industries as well as it’s most important use of keeping your omlet from sticking to the frying pan.

Check out Formmetry next Thursday for part 2 of  “6 Accidental Discoveries”

Have You Had it With Slobs in Your Lab?

September 1, 2010 by

Or how to clean up your lab, improve safety and advance your career.

When all things are held equal, a clean, safe lab will win your manager’s respect over a cluttered, messy area of confusion.

If you are one of the unfortunate people who have to work side-by-side with the original inventor of chaos you have my deepest sympathy.  I’ve been there.  I used to work next to a guy who was a good chemist but so messy, sloppy and cluttered it made me want to quit my job for fear of my own safety.  As a radio organic synthesis chemist making designer carcinogens I knew what exposure to microscopic quantities of those babies could do to me.  It wasn’t pretty.

Working next to him was a constant source of strain of my job and looking back on it, our managers failed by not addressing it directly.  And yes, I went on to a safer environment and breathed a big sigh of relief.  But is this the only answer?  Is that what businesses who have safety hazards want?  Their good employees to leave because of those who can’t follow safe work practices?  Well, it’s an answer.

If you are working with people in the lab who are safety hazards because of their work habits it’s your duty, your responsibility, your right to help rectify the problem.  After all, it’s YOUR safety at stake … probably not your managers.  And who is responsible for your safety?

The good news is that you can influence those around you to clean up their act, improve work place politics and make your manager look good all at the same time.  Yes that means taking a leadership role, yes that means really caring about people, and yes that means by offering solutions that make being safe, clean and neat as easy as possible.  Here’s how:

1.  Know this.  No body wants to get hurt, injured, infected or contaminated.  Not even the worst offender.  They simply are lazy, preoccupied, not too bright, or suffer from poor leadership.  Creating a clean, neat lab has simply not been made a priority to them by those who have leverage.  Don’t be mad or emotional at them – it will only stress you out.

2.  Set an example.  This first step is of paramount importance.  Make sure that the world you control is in control and it’s obvious when eyes are first laid upon your work area that you are the kind of person who values order, safety and discipline.  Earn the respect of those around you by respecting those around you.

3.  Take initiative.  Improve the safety, neatness and cleanliness in common or public areas.  Talk to your associates it in terms of “I feel safer when the weighing area is clean.”  “Being safe is important to me – I like the way my face looks!”  “The possibility of sample or personal contamination causes me stress.”  These types of statements spoken to co-workers and managers consistently and repeatedly will have an effect.  Maybe not the first time, but combined with your leadership and example it works.  Keep the pressure pleasant, public and persistent.

Safety meetings, safety inspections and safety teams are awesome.  Volunteer, get involved and offer helpful solutions and options.  Reward improvement with things like a single flower at an improved work area.  Send a thank you note or email.  Make a public acknowledgement of someone’s effort.  Share a story about how lab improvement changed the course of an event.  Above all be sincere with your appreciation, appropriate for your position and make your boss look good.  Your career and goodwill will grow.

I was lucky that when my career began my boss was extremely skilled and conscious of safety.  Maybe that was the difference.  Our labs and offices were always spotless and he taught me, and impressed upon me, how important it was.  I really believed him.  It stuck.

Susan Tripp is the President and CEO of TrippNT

2010: A Dropbox Odyssey

August 31, 2010 by

Like the monkeys dancing around the monolith I have come to take great joy and awe at the powers of Dropbox. Incase you missed it we started using Dropbox to back up our files. But we learned that was just the beginning of how we could use it to organize our workflow.

Just to recap, Dropbox is a wonderful piece of software that keeps and syncs a physical copy of your files on your computer, Dropbox’s server and any subsequent computers you have attached to that account. Got it? Well if you don’t watch this video from Dropbox for a little clarification.

Dropbox saved me from the spectre of data loss but opened TrippNT and myself up to a whole new world of productivity. Here are few neat features we use daily:

1. Backup – We try to keep most projects we are working on stored in our local Dropbox folder. We also store copies of any important business documents in here. Redundancy is key when it comes to back up.

2. Shared Folders – It is also important that multiple employees have access to important documents to help serve customers better. If I make a modification to a an important document during the day, it is saved, backed up and distributed to all TrippNT employees who have that folder shared within minutes. No more uploading to a FTP or running around the building to get the correct file from someone’s computer.

3. Track Modifications – Each employee at TrippNT has their own individual account for Dropbox. By logging onto Dropbox’s website you can track who has recently modified a particular file.

4. Collaboration – At TrippNT we have two locations and we need to share files with our marketing firm in a third city. With Dropbox we can make sure every one of the locations has the same exact file and see if there have been changes recently.

5. Access to previous versions of files – Another one of my favorite features of Dropbox is that allows you to see about up to 10 previous versions of a saved file and restore them. This has saved my life several times where I saved over an excel document only to realize I still needed a certain piece of information. I just simply restore it to another location and I’m back in business.

6. Remote access – All of your files in Dropbox can be accessed anywhere in the world by logging onto Dropbox’s website. No longer will we ever be without that presentation or necessary file. Also Dropbox now offers mobile access with native iPhone, Android and Blackberry apps.

7. FTP replacement – By placing your files in the Public folder in Dropbox you can generate a url to copy of that file on Dropbox’s server that you can share with customers, clients or vendors for them to download.

These are just a few of the many things Dropbox is good for use. I’m sure I’ll come up with new and exciting ways to achieve even more with Dropbox in the future.

Do you know any other ways to use Dropbox? We’d love to hear them, please leave a comment.

Jason Gross is the Director of Marketing for TrippNT

Survey Says …

August 30, 2010 by

Some of the greatest bits of information that a company can have is to know what their customers are thinking. And there is almost no better way to feel the pulse of your customers than with a survey. Customers can give you ideas, point out your flaws, and recognize your strengths.  At TrippNT we send out surveys to find out how we are doing and what new things customers are looking for. We send out both paper and email survey’s so that we can reach people in all of our customer categories.  To design, collect, and analyze our surveys we use www.SurveyMonkey.com. This is a fabulous tool that allows us to combine our paper survey information with our electronic in one easy place.  It also has a great section with articles to help you design and organize your surveys so you get the best possible response rate.

After reviewing ways to improve our surveys I made several changes, the biggest of which was offering an incentive to customers who completed the survey. The team at the office got together to figure out what incentive we thought would work the best.

We discussed many ideas:

Electronics – Reasonably affordable items everyone already has, more expensive ones would bust our modest budget.

Money –  $1 wouldn’t motivate too many people but $10 was also a budget buster.

Jewelry – But what about male clients?

Food Items – What do people like and what does that have to do with a  lab organization company?

Finally we decided on t-shirts. We figured that t-shirts are something you can never have enough of and they would also be a great way to promote our brand. Not to mention our customers can feel proud about their organizational skills by wearing our in-house designed “I’m Neat” Tee.

And people love it!  I am not sure why we didn’t think of it sooner. I know my husband always goes for the free t-shirt. Whether it’s for giving blood or signing up for a credit card we don’t need, he can’t resist a free t-shirt. And it appears that he is not the only one.  There are so many of you out there who have filled out and returned our surveys.  All of us at TrippNT thank you for taking the time to give us some good information so that we can provide better service, faster deliveries and new products.  Keep on sending us your thoughts and ideas and we’ll keep on pushing ourselves to exceed your expectations!

Carrie Raney is the Director of Customer Service for TrippNT

Oh the Woes of the Daily Chores.

August 26, 2010 by

Every place of business has it’s share of mundane, random tasks.  Often because these tasks are deemed as less important than those that directly keep the business running they have a tendency to fall through the cracks of our daily routines. And although these “chores” may seem less important, if they are neglected for too long they can bring about a lot of discomfort in the workplace.

Many larger companies often have either employees or hire outside contractors who’s job it is to handle the tasks of cleaning, and trash removal.  But for the smaller companies such as ours these tasks are done by all of the employees, or they wouldn’t get done at all.  That is why a simple system was implemented at TrippNT to ensure that these chores are completed and are distributed among all of the employees fairly and evenly.

Organization is our business, so it’s no surprise that a simple yet highly organized system was put into place to ensure these tasks were handled:

  • A calendar was placed in the kitchen area of the building.   Every employee (including the President and Vice President of the company) are placed in a rotation for kitchen clean-up duty.  Every day after lunch the calendar is consulted and whichever employees’ day it is, that person is responsible for cleaning the entire kitchen area including cleaning out the microwaves, washing any dishes and taking out the kitchen trash.
  • On the same calendar a different employee is assigned daily with the responsibility of answering the phone during lunch.  The phone has always been answered during this time regardless, but this helps to ensure that the same person doesn’t continuously have their lunch interrupted day in and day out.
  • A separate calendar was placed on the refrigerator.  This one is on a weekly rotation and ensures that on Friday of every week the refrigerator is cleaned out.  This helps to avoid any uneaten lunches and left overs turning into petri dishes.
  • The same system is in place for bathroom cleanup as well.  On Friday of every week a different employee is scheduled to clean and tidy up the bathrooms.  So that the bathrooms don’t become a petri dish.

These are simple and effective ways of organizing the random chores around the office.  It is fair to all of the employees since all share in the responsibilities while at the same time making people accountable for completion of specific jobs.

Try implementing these ideas in your office, or even your home!  I think that you will be pleasantly surprised by the results and even more surprised how your co-workers (or children) are accepting of the idea.  If you want an easy way to get started with organizing and distributing chores check out ChoreBuster.com, its a free and easy to use.

Do you have your own system of handling the random chores around the office? Or maybe you tried the system that we suggested.  Please leave a comment on this blog post and let us know, we would love to hear from you!

The Five Traps that Create Lab Accidents and How to Eliminate Them: Part I.

August 25, 2010 by

What are the top Five Traps that cause Lab Accidents?  Not wearing safety glasses? Not knowing what chemicals should be stored together?  Improper safety training?  Non-compliance with safety policies?  If someone had asked me that question two days ago, those would have been my answers.  And they would have been wrong. Really wrong.

According to 2008 statistics from the Bureau of Labor Statistics these are the top five causes of laboratory accidents:

1.  Falls (26,230)

2.  Muscle pulls, sprains, strains (24,540)

3.  Overexertion (22,850)

4.  Struck by an object (10,950)

5.  Caught in or compressed by an object (7,280)

So why in all my years in the lab were these top three hazards never mentioned as a lab hazard?  Surely my employer was paying claims!  Not only are falls the leading cause of laboratory accidents, they are the leading cause of all workplace accidents.  In addition, The National Safety Council reports that slips and falls are the leading cause of death in the workplace and the cause of more than 20 percent of all disabling injuries. They are devastating to the person who falls as well as the employer (and customers) who end up paying for it.

What causes falls?  We have all fallen at one time or another.  Can you remember what caused one of your falls?  Did you trip over an object on the floor?  Did you miss a stair? Were you just having a clumsy moment?  Were you wearing the wrong shoes for the terrain? Was the floor uneven?  Did you trip over a wire or power cord?  All of these are possibilities of course but none are the number one cause of falls.

Beware of Trap Number 1:

Wet, Oily or otherwise Contaminated Walkways (liquid, chemical or physical).

Floors and walkways that are dirty, cluttered or wet are an accident with a “You’re Invited to Fall” sign.  The “I’ll come back and wipe up my coke or coffee spill in a minute” attitude may cost someone else a few days in a cast. Immediate and appropriate action cleaning up, putting away and clearing out obstacles is the only action that shows you care about other people.

Posting reminders like this one helps prevent injuries.

At TrippNT, in our manufacturing plant, I see these types of safety violations from time to time, but I had no idea how dangerous they were.  I’ve actually walked through puddles of water, rain, drinks and melting snow making my rounds.  Terrible!  The emphasis on eliminating contaminated walkways around here just changed. Amazing how “facts” can change the way you do things.
Susan Tripp is the President and CEO of TrippNT.