I am appalled by the opinions based on ignoring well-published facts. Jyllian Kemsley has done outstanding factual reporting of this entire story. Please go to the SAFETY ZONE and read the entire background before you develop and vocalize an opinion.
- Sheri was an employee, NOT A STUDENT. Thus, Cal/OSHA had jurisdiction.
- Sheri was hired to assist the lab in purchasing and installing Agilent instrumentation, with which she had extensive experience as an undergrad.
- While she had little experience with organic synthesis, she asked for and was given by Prof. Harran a synthetic project to work on in addition to her instrumentation work.
- She received no documented training of any type on handling tBuLi. Professor Harran did watch her handle an air-sensitive catalyst successfully, before turning her loose on the tBuLi project.
- Professor Harran was in the building the day of the fire and had instructed her to perform a 3-fold scale-up of the reaction she had done in October. He was in his office at the time of the fire.
K. P. Jamison (September 26, 2018 2:37 PM) asked if any "modelling" was done regarding outcomes if other PPE had been worn. Yes, though until today it has never been discussed. During the investigation, with the actual medical records in hand, we considered how events might have played out if she had been wearing an FR lab coat as well as all cotton clothing and various other options. While skin burns likely would have been reduced, the pulmonary injuries likely would have been the same. We never definitively decided if an FR lab coat would have changed the ultimate outcome.
Bottom line: The PI is the "Captain of the Ship" and is ultimately responsible for all events on the ship. As a long-retired PI, I say to anyone in that position, you are responsible for your people. Protect them as if they were your children and family.I think my only potential quibble is to the extent to which it is true that American PIs are treated as "the captains of their ship" and "ultimately responsible" for the outcomes in their laboratories. As a ideal, I think it's a good one.
The extent to which, for example, the US Navy holds its ship captains responsible for events under their command and how "loss of confidence" means a constant stream (one a week? one a month?) of fired Navy ship captains - that's certainly not the case for US science academia. Rather than court-martial by UCLA prosecuting authorities, Professor Harran was defended to the utmost against the Los Angeles District Attorney by his institution, including the Regents of the University of California taking on much of the legal responsibility for what happened in the Harran laboratory. Quite a difference, there.