About CLIPs

Following is a message from the originator of Chemistry Laboratory Information Profiles (CLIPs):

We all know that, in general, chemicals are hazardous—that if they are mishandled or misused, harm can result. Everyone also knows that statements of the hazards associated with a given chemical are scattered throughout the pages of the Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) and also appear on the label of the container for that chemical. We acknowledge that our professional responsibility as teachers of chemistry requires that all concerned be cognizant of the hazards of the chemicals we and our students use and handle.

But there are problems in acquiring this hazard information from MSDSs and labels. Many MSDSs and labels do not directly apply to the use of chemicals in the instructional laboratory. They are written for industrial use where the procedures involve large quantities of chemicals in multi-gallon sized vessels connected one to another by piping equipped with valves requiring electric-powered motors to open and close. Although it is certainly possible to “translate” such MSDSs into information suited to laboratory quantities and use, the effort to do so is singularly un-rewarding to many teachers who typically face more immediate demands on their time.

Further, different MSDSs disclose hazard information in different ways. The information about, say, flammability that is displayed in Section 3, page 2, of the MSDS for one chemical is found in Section V, page 4, in the MSDS for another chemical in its discussion of combustibility. Although it is less common today than it was a few years ago, some MSDSs do not disclose all of the information required by the pertinent OSHA regulation, 29 CFR 1910.1200, and therefore cannot be relied upon. Even experienced chemists are sometimes unable to determine whether an MSDS is defective without spending several hours searching the literature for the accurate information.

Labels on chemical containers are usually better in that most list the hazards, precautions, and first aid procedures in the same places, although not always in the same order. Even so, suppliers seem to have their own idiosyncrasies in the way they present information on their labels. The labels on smaller containers are problematic in yet another way: either the printed font is too small to read and comprehend easily or the information is abbreviated or condensed.

Accordingly, there seems to be a need for a document that describes the hazards of a chemical in a manner more useful for teachers and their students. To this end, I have devised CLIPs, Chemical Laboratory Information Profiles.

CLIPS can be used to assist your determinations of the precautions your students should take in their laboratory work, or they can be used to guide students in discussions wherein they participate in selecting the precautionary measures for their own laboratory work. Also, using a few published CLIPs as examples, students could be assigned the task of preparing their own CLIPs for one or more of the reagents to be used in next week’s laboratory work. Other pedagogic applications are possible.

The CLIP itself and its format are intended to be self-explanatory. Suggestions for clarification and improvement are always welcome.

Jay A. Young