Friday, April 22, 2016

Gruesome photo

Pictures of wrecked labs are always sobering, but the latest photographs obtained from the Honolulu Fire Department by C&EN from the University of Hawaii incident are pretty awful. The last photo is the worst. You've been warned.

Flammable gases are no joke.

UPDATE: Added another line. 

21 comments:

  1. Before anyone starts scrolling through thinking "these aren't so bad...", there are 14 photos, the last is by far the worst in case you wish to avoid it.

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    1. Yeah, that steadily progresses from "that's just what my hood looks like on a Friday" to "are those bloody footprints?" to "..."

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  2. Yikes...after looking at those photos I'd say she's lucky to be alive.

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  3. We talked about this incident in our safety meeting yesterday. (I work in industry.) I didn't show these pictures, just the previous ones without blood, and people were horrified at the missed cues to stop and reconsider the procedure. I'm glad she lived through this.

    I was also surprised how many people I work with didn't know about the Sheri Sanji case.

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  4. Another observation: it doesn't appear that any of those 10+ gas cylinders stored together are strapped to anything. Definitely a sign of lax safety policies.

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    1. We posted only a subset of the ~250 photos from the fire department. Looking through them just now, none shows how all of the tanks were strapped. A couple of partial views show that at least some were strapped, though that group of eight cylinders may share a single strap.

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  5. Thanks for this. Eye opening. Makes you really think about safety.

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  6. There are gas cylinder stands that are low and would not show halfway up the cylinder. The cylinders in the photo appear to be touching so I don't think this type of stand was in use. Changing cylinders arranged like this I hazardous.

    http://www.usasafety.com/gas-cylinder-stand-1-cylinder-p-40.html

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  7. My workplace (industrial R&D) is going to be discussing the incident in detail at our monthly safety meeting next week.Thanks for keeping track of this story CJ.

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  8. I wonder if anybody from Waters will be upset that their ad popped up over that article, at least on my phone. (Note to C&EN people: did you really need to collect a few more pennies by putting advertising on that article?)

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  9. As above, I'd say she's *very* lucky to be alive.... horrific.

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  10. Very lucky to survive with only a major injury. This speaks to a complete lack of any appreciable safety management at that institution. No doubt there will be the usual finger pointing as with all University lab accidents and the PI certainly deserves criticism here but for an incident like this to happen goes much wider than the decisions of one research leader.

    I'm afraid it is unpopular but academic freedom can't extend to issues like health and safety - this is the result if it does.

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  11. The PI deserves more criticism than usual here. The Harran/Sangji incident can be explained as typical academic-lab carelessness, but if Prof. Yu didn't understand that a pressurized tank full of H2 and O2 is a bomb, he isn't competent to be a professor.

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    1. https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/2805224-2016-05-30-Honolulu-Fire-Department-Report-on.html

      Page 41 of 45: "At this point, Mr. (redacted) (orange T-shirt) walked up. Command asked him if he was aware of an explosion that may have happened within the past two days and he said yes. Mr (redacted) stated that it happened doing the same experiment that resulted in the explosion today. He also stated it was nothing to worry about because it was small." Emphasis mine.

      Another grad student's statement matches pretty closely the response Ms. Ekins-Coward's claims to have come from Prof. Yu about the previous explosion. I suppose it's still not clear exactly how much blame Prof. Yu deserves, but it's clear Ms. Ekins-Coward was not the only member of his group with a dangerously poor understanding of safety protocols - particularly for near misses.

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    2. Not clear how much blame he deserves, and a poor understanding of safety protocols? This is more like a poor understanding of his own field if he didn't know that H2 and O2 can go kaboom. I can understand someone making it through freshman gen chem by memorizing and parroting without understanding, but how the heck did this guy get a PhD and a professor position? I don't see this as lax attention to safety; I see someone who's dangerously incompetent to run a lab.

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    3. KT: He certainly deserves blame. It is only a question of how much (criminal negligence? worse?). If he did make the statement Ekins-Coward alleges about ignoring the near-miss, that would tip the scales in the criminal direction.

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    4. His obvious cluelessness about chemistry fundamentals works in his favor as a defense against a charge of criminal negligence. Yu's attorney could make a convincing argument that he's in over his head in a PI position, and didn't understand how dangerous a mix of hydrogen and oxygen is.

      If anyone was negligent, it was the hiring committee that failed to detect that this guy made it as far as he did by parroting facts and robotting the experiments his advisor told him to do.

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  12. The number of safety violations shown in these pictures in unbelievable. Did anyone from EH&S ever walked through these labs?
    This was a totally preventable accident.

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    1. I think EH&S are pretty toothless at most universities. No one seems to care about safety in any of these places until there is a major incident. It's frankly quite amazing that more incidents don't happen yearly in academic labs due to lax safety standards.

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    2. U Hawaii Manoa Environmental Health & Safety Director Roy Takekawa said at a March 17 press conference that the lab had been inspected in January and "passed all requirements."

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