On Wednesday, 29 May 2019, the University of Venda (Univen)’s Department of Chemistry in the School of Mathematical and Natural Sciences held the Safety Seminar to create safety awareness to chemistry postgraduate students who are conducting their research and experiments in the laboratories. This safety seminar took place at the Research Conference Centre.
Chemistry Postgraduate students, Vhembe district Municipality fire safety staff and Univen staff members posing for a photo after fire safety demonstration
The goals for this seminar were to help chemistry postgraduate students to follow proper procedures when working in the laboratories; to properly store and handle chemicals and reagents; make them aware of the dangers that might occur in the laboratory and the use of safety equipment in the laboratories; make them aware of the steps that should be taken in case of an emergency that might save a life and to be able to follow emergency preparedness plan in case of fire.
When opening and welcoming guests, Dean of the School of Mathematical and Natural Sciences, Prof Natasha Potgieter thanked organisations that came to educate Univen students and staff about the dangers of chemicals and how to handle them. She encouraged postgraduate students to take note of everything as this would help them in avoiding unnecessary incidences that might put their lives at risk. “Make this a fruitful venture and let us continue to value events like this because they don’t usually present themselves.” Prof Potgieter also mentioned that chemicals are not only found in the laboratory, we also use other chemicals at our homes on daily basis and we need to be careful and know how to handle them but to do that, we need trainings like this.
Dr Lutendo Chester Murulana and Dr Nikita Tavengwa Lecturers in the Department of Chemistry spoke about Chemical spillage, signage and waste management. They said the University, its staff and students should work together in making sure that laboratories and all buildings are always safe. They also told postgraduate students to report dangerous goods in the laboratory. “If you suspect that something is malfunctioning in the lab please report it.”
They also taught them about proper and safer ways to use the laboratory instruments or housekeeping. Under this topic, the two doctors spoke, and tackled matters related to species that are hazardous; safety in the laboratory, occupational Health and safety act (OHASA). “There are specific Personal Protective Equipment that you need to wear before you enter the laboratory even when you are not going to touch any chemical, always be careful”. They taught students about how to handle flammable chemicals.
Dr Murulana and Dr Tavengwa said in case of spillage, there are seven steps to be followed. They said one should assess the risk, select PPE, confine the spill, stop the source, evaluate the incident and implement clean up, decontaminate and complete required reports.
They advised postgraduate students to know the emergency safety signs and what they signify or resemble. The two touched a matter of Emergency Action Plan (EAP) where they advised the audience to know basic emergency measures and first aid for chemicals in the eyes.
Vincent Lotter from Lasec demonstrated the way in which anything is possible in the lab and told students to never mix chemicals that they are not sure of because those chemicals could explode and burn them or even the whole building. He demonstrated about the safe storage of flammable solvents in the laboratory. Lotter said storage of flammables within the lab becomes more common and people should be careful when working with or handling those kinds of chemicals. He displayed various classification of flammable liquids and taught them on the possibilities of preventing explosive atmosphere. He said ventilation is the key. He also told them to always take a note and be aware of the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHASA) everywhere they go.
On behalf of Chemistry postgraduate students, Raymond Tshiluka, Chemistry PhD candidate spoke about awareness from current hazardous incidences. He advised students to take what they have learned from this safety seminar serious because those things will help them not only in the lab but also in life. He warned them to never take those teachings for granted. “Never enter the lab without a lab coat on and never handle chemicals without gloves and eye goggles because PPE is very important for your health and that of others. Let us get our degrees while we are still in good conditions. “
Regarding the Emergency Medical Services was Dr Khathutshelo Norman Hadzhi from Eagle 911 who handled the first aid demonstration. He presented on the Lab Safety where he said the University should have a policy on the safety of the laboratory. He said in emergency, we talk about prevention not responding to the incidences and accidents. Dr Hadzhi told the audience that fire extinguishers should be serviced and there should be someone assigned to monitor them especially the expiry date.
“Before you enter any lab, check the surroundings, assess the area, look for things that you might need to use in case of emergency. Check where the exit is.” He encouraged them to always wear PPE before they enter the lab and warned them to wear it properly. “Wear proper shoes. First aid should be first. Before you enter the laboratory, you need to be inducted.” He told lecturers to never allow students to enter laboratory without proper PPE and to make sure that their Laboratories have safety kits. “There is a need for students to do CPR course because this course will make first aid easier for students in case of emergency. He thanked the University for inviting them to talk about safety at Univen.
Mr Hendric Sibara, from Vhembe District Municipality Fire Station presented about Fire Safety. He said students have a tendency of destroying fire extinguishers and all safety equipment when they are on strike. This is a very serious activity that is harmful to all students and might catch up with them sooner or later. What you do today might affect other people’s lives in future. He spoke about methods of extinguishing fire. Mr Sibara said there are four methods of extinguishing fires which are smothering, starvation, cooling and chemical reaction inhibition and encouraged students to know at least what to use to stop the fire from doing more harm. He said that, during emergency, they should dial the number 10177 and, on the cellphone, they should dial 911.
Vote of thanks was rendered by Mr Takalani Phosiwa from Maintenance section of Facilities Management Department. He thanked all students and organisations that participated in this programme.
Guests from other organisations that participated, chemistry postgraduate students and Univen staff listening to the presenters
Mr Hendric Sibara during the fire safety demonstration
Group photo of attendees of the safety seminar
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Date: 31 May 2019