Safety Contacts

Chemistry Department Safety Committee

Name Title Phone Home Phone Room
Dr. Todd Woerner Safety Coordinator / Undergraduate Lab Manager 660-1525 919-969-9037 1224
Prof. Ross Widenhoefer Director of Undergraduate Studies 660-1533   2101
Ms. Trish McMillan Administrative Manager 660-1507   3237
Prof. Benjamin Wiley Chair of Safety Committee 668-3066   2214
Prof. Katherine Franz Chair of the Department of Chemistry 660-1508   3236


Duke Occupational & Environmental Safety Office - Staff Directories 


Elementary Safety Rules Back to top

  1. Keep this manual within easy access in your laboratory and be familiar with its contents.
  2. The safe way is the right way to do your job. Plan your work. Follow instructions. If you do not know how to do the job, ask your instructor or research director.
  3. Report to the Safety Coordinator all unsafe conditions, unsafe acts and "near misses" which might cause future accidents.
  4. Be able to use all safety devices and protective equipment provided for your use. Know the location and contents of the nearest safety station.
  5. Maintain good housekeeping by keeping your work area clean and orderly. 
  6. Wear proper clothing. Avoid bringing long hair, loose sleeves, cuffs, rings, bracelets, etc. in proximity to moving machinery. Proper shoes are required in the laboratory — no bare feet or sandals.
  7. Horseplay in any form is dangerous and prohibited. Do not run in laboratory areas or halls.
  8. Do not oil, grease, or work on unprotected machinery in motion.
  9. All machinery and equipment under repair and adjustment shall be properly "locked out" and tagged.
  10. Know the evacuation procedure for your area, the location of fire exits, the location and use of fire extinguishers, and the proper method of reporting fires.
  11. Compressed gas cylinders should be secured firmly. Never move a cylinder unless the protective cap is screwed over the valve.
  12. Don't try completely new and untried experiments involving potentially dangerous chemicals without help.
  13. Changes to common procedures, including: "scaling-up" a reaction; a change in heat source or reaction temperature or pressure; change in solvent; etc., turn a known procedure into a high-risk procedure. Be sure to discuss all changes to known procedures with the Principal Investigator, the Safety Representative from the group, the Departmental Safety Coordinator, and/or the OESO.
  14. An Unattended Experiment Form should identify any laboratory where an experiment is to be left unattended overnight or over a weekend. It is your responsibility to see that adequate information is supplied to protect safety personnel or firemen who may have to deal with an emergency situation in your laboratory.
  15. Never leave a reaction or experiment running unattended unless you have told your lab partners enough about it to deal with potential hazards while you are away. Leave an overnight form on the door if the laboratory will be unattended.
  16. Never carry out hazardous work alone, especially at night or over the weekends. The National Safety Council makes the following recommendations: Make sure someone is in visible or audible range to help you if something goes wrong. Regardless of the work function, there should be a check procedure established at some regular interval to determine the physical state of the person working alone. Keep aware of where your neighbors are.
  17. Report every accident or fire, no matter how trivial, at once to the Campus Police, 684-2444. Even if there is no injury to personnel or equipment, a report should be filed by a police officer. If the incident is trivial, give Campus Police the option of sending an officer to your lab at a mutually convenient time rather than immediately.
  18. Smoking is prohibited in French Family Science Center.

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General Safety Policies

The safety and well being of its students, faculty, and staff come above all other considerations at Duke University. No experiment that subjects personnel to unreasonable risk is acceptable, no matter how desirable the information which might be obtained. It is the first duty of research directors, instructors, supervisors and all persons in authority to provide for safety in the environment and operations under their control. It is the Chemistry Department's policy to comply not only with legal safety standards, but to act positively, where it can, to prevent injury, ill-health, damage and loss arising from work carried out within its building. The Department seeks to encourage all its members to participate in and contribute to the establishment and observance of safe working practices. This is not only a moral duty, failure to do so can constitute legal grounds for negligence suits. A discussion of Negligence Suits in Chemistry Teaching, J. Chem. Educ. 60, 358 (1983) states, "In all cases it is the teacher who is legally responsible for the safety of his or her students. The teacher must foresee hazards to the extent that any reasonably prudent person would". An aim of this manual and the Duke Chemistry Department safety program is to provide the required information on which to base a prudent approach to safe laboratory operations. Back to top

Safety Guidelines for Undergraduate Independent Study

  • Students should be assigned to work in laboratories in which graduate students and/or postdoctoral associates are also working.
  • Students should receive instruction and close supervision directly from their faculty mentor, although a senior graduate student or postdoctoral associate working with the faculty member may also be involved.
  • Students should not work alone, particularly at night or on weekends, on operations involving chemicals or other hazards of the type covered in the Chemistry Department Safety Manual. If work at night or on weekends is required, it should only be done with the express permission of the faculty mentor and with specific arrangements to avoid working alone.
  • Supervising faculty and, if appropriate, associate supervisors, should discuss with the student the potential hazards of all experiments to be carried out, and closely supervise preparations for all new potentially hazardous operations.
  • Students should agree with their supervising professors on a weekly work schedule and should make every effort to maintain this schedule.
  • Students must read the French Family Science Centery Safety Manual and sign a statement that they have done so, before they are allowed to begin laboratory work.
  • An outline of the independent study project, including the goal(s) and as far as practical, the kinds of experiments to be carried out, methods to be used and data to be collected, as well as a proposed schedule of accomplishments, should be completed (by the student and faculty member together) before the beginning of any hands-on laboratory work. This will serve as a guide so that it is clear to student and mentor what each expects at each stage of the project and for the overall project. It would be appropriate for each to sign and keep a copy. This document should also state where the lab space for the project is and who else is to be involved in the supervision (if anyone).
  • In order to comply with the above guidelines, those faculty without graduate students or postdoctoral associates or without lab space should enter into collaborations with other faculty who have students and facilities, or at least make arrangements to "borrow" appropriate lab space. If at all possible, these arrangements should be made (at least tentatively) before students are accepted for supervision. If necessary, the Coordinator of Independent Study can be called on to facilitate arrangements.

Last updated 07/25/2013  Back to top