Many of my US-based readers in the industry probably aren't even at work today - having July 4th fall on a Tuesday definitely puts a dent in the Monday before it. (I'm not at the Wonder Drug Factory myself). No doubt the grad students and post-docs are cranking away in the lab, though, and I hope that none of them have any fireworks that they didn't plan for.
That's a part of chemistry that gets a lot of attention - the way that our day-to-day work can, once in a while, catch on fire. It's not all that common, compared to the amount of time we spend without flames in our fume hoods, although compared to (say) cost accounting things must still look pretty lively. But I have to admit that we chemists don't do anything to help our reputations. No, not when everyone in the lab has a repetoire of their favorite lab accident tales, we don't. I'm as guilty as anyone else, with my "How Not to Do It" category.
But it should be noted that most of the best stories come from a person's graduate school days, when the teller (and their co-workers) were younger, probably more foolish, and certainly less experienced. The only way to discover just how spirited some reagents are is to use them yourself, but after you've done that, you remember them forever. (No one, for example, who's ever dealt with a pure lower-dialkylzinc reagent ever needs a reminder about treating them with respect). Experience also gives you a better chance of stopping a small accident before it can become something that people still talk about twenty years later. You know, for example, that there's likely going to be a flame burning on the tip of your syringe when you take it out of that bottle of tert-butyllithium, so you don't jerk your arm in surprise and hose the stuff spectacularly across the back of your hood.
Another factor, not to be neglected, is that with time some of the folks who generate the best explosion stories decide that they should probably look into other careers. I can tell you that in industry we don't have some of the more exotic types that you find earlier in academia, leaving trails of Pyrex fragments wherever they may wander. The left-hand side of the distribution tends to drop off, as was ever the case, and a good thing, too.
In almost seventeen years of industrial research, I hardly have a story that can compare with what went on in any single year of my graduate work. And no, that's not a complaint.
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