The facts are unequivocal. Occupational Safety & Health Administration statistics demonstrate that researchers are 11 times more likely to get hurt in an academic lab than in an industrial lab.At the time, this was almost immediately challenged by Jyllian Kemsley, because it was based on OSHA statistics for entire institutions, not the laboratories themselves.
However, this "11 times safer" statistic continues to circulate, even as it is unfounded. Today, C&EN added an editor's note to the original letter to the editor:
EDITOR’S NOTE: The statistic presented in this letter that “researchers are 11 times more likely to get hurt in an academic lab than in an industrial lab” is inaccurate. The authors actually compared the overall injury and illness rate for academic institutions to Dow Chemical’s overall injury and illness rate. The overall rates would include accidents in areas such as groundskeeping, dining halls, and manufacturing facilities as well as in research laboratories, and the university rates may not include events that harm students. There are no available national statistics about injury and illness rates specifically in research laboratories.It will be interesting to see if Google's webcrawlers and diligent fact-checking will manage to correct the record and purge this statistic from our collective memories, and here's hoping that we actually have national-level statistics about chemical laboratory incidents in our lifetimes.