Near Miss Lab Incident: A Case Study Regarding Piranha Etch

Lyndia Stacey
Case revision date: 
9 pages (Case Study)

The University of Waterloo (UWaterloo) has been named Research University of the Year among Canadian comprehensive universities for the seventh year in a row, according to the 2014 rankings by Research Infosource. This innovative culture requires laboratories that have high-end equipment and cutting-edge technology, but may also involve potentially dangerous chemicals. Although these labs continue to develop many modern advances, there are inherent risks with lab-based research. For this reason, laboratory safety is a vital component of research.

A shared research lab in the Faculty of Engineering faced a near miss incident involving Piranha solution. Piranha etch is a highly aggressive, off-gassing solution comprised of sulfuric acid and hydrogen peroxide, used to clean organic residue from substrates. The technologist for this research group, Lewis Tate , received an email at 1:15 pm on Friday, March 13th, 2015, which contained photos of a safety concern, see figure. Piranha solution had been found in a sealed glass container on the floor next to acetone. The bottles were discovered by two graduate students of a neighbouring lab. Lewis needed to quickly decide how best to resolve this problem.

 a bottle of Piranha etch found next to acetone on the floorPhoto sent to Lewis Tate (lab tech): a bottle of Piranha etch found next to acetone on the floor

Learning objectives: 

The main teaching objective of this case study is to highlight a safety hazard within University of Waterloo as a means to learn about the importance and impact of hazard identification and Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs). Ultimately, this case study should encourage insight so that a similar near miss is not repeated in another lab.

Key words: 
safety; Policy 34; Ontario Health and Safety Act; Principle Investigators; Standard Operating Procedures
CEAB attributes: 
Module 01 – Case Study
Module 02 – Job Safety Analysis
Module 03 – Standard Operating Procedures
Module TN – Teaching Note

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