Trizole Exposure

EHS received a report that a post-doctoral student had experienced an exposure to a compound called Trizol (phenol/thiocyanate compound) several days earlier and had received medical evaluation and treatment at Christiana Hospital. Trizol is a highly corrosive and toxic chemical that can cause burns on contact with the skin as well as systemic poisoning. Details of the incident are below.

Reportedly the incident took place after hours while the researcher was working alone. He was finishing a process and decided to dilute the remaining solution in the bottom of a tube in an attempt to rinse it into the proper waste container. He took the tube containing 5 ml of the trizol compound to the sink, held it under a running faucet which caused it to splash out of the tube onto his arms causing burns on both forearms. Reportedly the researcher had removed his lab coat just prior to the incident, but was still wearing the proper gloves; however, he reportedly was not wearing his splash goggles. He washed off the affected area on his arms and reported to the Student Health Center, who referred him to Christiana Hospital. Fortunately this lab and department had provided extensive training to include a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) for this particular operation so the researcher was very aware of the hazards of the material. However, the method used to remove the excess trizol from the tube was a decision made contrary to the established SOP.

Several key elements of this incident need to be highlighted for lessons learned.

  1. Implement the buddy system when working in a lab, particularly after hours. Never work alone when working with hazardous materials.
  2. Always wear proper PPE including safety eye protection, gloves, and lab coat while in the lab area.
  3. Conduct cold runs - For example, conduct the process using only water in place of the chemicals to gain a better understanding of the possible problems that might be encountered.
  4. Never dilute something directly from the faucet. Use another container to pour the water from thereby eliminating the possibility of excessive force causing the contaminant to splash.
  5. Conduct dilutions in a chemical fume hood over a secondary container or spill paper, particularly if material is high hazard. Use the chemical fume hood sash as a form of protection.
  6. Report any incident to the supervisor and DEHS as soon as possible to ensure proper medical evaluation and follow up treatment is provided and accurate investigations are completed.