As you might expect, the official statement from UCLA plays up the improvements in lab safety put into place in the wake of the accident and points to the creation of the UC Center for Laboratory Safety, which has been holding workshops and surveying lab workers on safety practices and attitudes.
I’m afraid, however, judging from the immediate reaction I’ve seen at my own institution, that we have a long way to go.
In particular, a number of science faculty (who are not chemists) seem to have been getting clear messages in the wake of “that UCLA prosecution” — they didn’t really know the details of the case, nor the names of the people involved — that our university would not be backing them up legally in the event of any safety mishap in the lab or the field. Basically, the rumblings from the higher administrative strata were: No matter how well you’ve prepared yourself, your students, your employees, no matter how many safety measures you’ve put into place, no matter what limitations you’re working with as far as equipment or facilities, if something goes wrong, it’s your [posterior]* on the line.One of the very interesting aspects of the case is how vigorously UCLA and its entire administrative apparatus has defended Professor Harran. Nary a contrary leak nor a whispered rumor have made it into the press. But it isn't a surprise that other institutions are less excited about spending what must have been millions of dollars defending principal investigators from labor law violations.