Last month there was an explosion in a lab at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. A postdoc lost her arm in the explosion, which happened while she was transferring hydrogen, oxygen and carbon dioxide gases into a small, low-pressure system. The explosion is still under investigation, and caused over $700,000 in damages.
Besides the Hawaii Occupational Health and Safety Division, the University of California’s Center for Laboratory Safety is investigating the explosion. The center was formed in 2011 as part of the settlement proceedings following a fatal lab incident at the University of California, Los Angeles.
The investigations are still ongoing, though the Chancellor of the University of Hawaii at Manoa has stated that preliminary indications suggest the explosion was an isolated incident rather than part of a pattern or connected to an intentional act.
While serious injuries or deaths are common outcomes of lab incidents, they are still too frequent. And as the press clippings on the Center for Laboratory Safety’s website suggest, these accidents – with serious injuries or not – are way too common. We still seem to have way too far to go to make sure laboratory facilities are as safe as we might expect them to be.