Date: Wed, 7 Jan 2009 16:28:42 -0800
Reply-To: "Debbie M. Decker" <dmdecker**At_Symbol_Here**UCDAVIS.EDU>
Sender: DCHAS-L Discussion List <DCHAS-L**At_Symbol_Here**LIST.UVM.EDU>
From: "Debbie M. Decker" <dmdecker**At_Symbol_Here**UCDAVIS.EDU>
Subject: Re: UCLA Lab Fire
Comments: cc: Laboratory Safety

I spoke with my colleague, Bill Peck, at UCLA this morning and he gave
me permission to add some details to the accident description.

A 23 year old female research associate/laboratory technician intended
to add an (unknown) aliquot of 1.6 M t-bu-Li (in pentane) to a round
bottom flask, placed in a dry ice/acetone bath.  She had been employed
in the lab for about 3 months.  The incident occurred on Dec. 29, during
the UCLA holiday shutdown between Christmas and New Years.  Researchers
are granted permission to work during the shut down for "critical
research needs."  There were two post doctoral researchers working in
the lab and the adjacent lab, with limited English proficiency.

The principal investigator had trained the employee to slightly
pressurize the bottle (an ~ 250 ml Aldrich Sure Seal container) with
Argon and withdraw the desired aliquot using a 60 ml syringe, fitted
with a 20 gauge needle.  The PI likes to use these particular syringes
because they have a tight seal.  There is no evidence that the employee
used this method.  Speculation:  she may have just tried to pull up the
aliquot in the syringe.  Somehow, the syringe plunger popped out or was pul
led out of the syringe barrel, splashing the employee with t-bu-Li and pent
ane.  The mixture caught fire, upon contact with air.  She was wearing nitr
ile gloves, safety glasses and synthetic sweater.  She was not wearing a la
b coat.  The fire ignited the gloves and the sweater.

Six feet from the fume hood was an emergency shower.  When the
employee's gloves and clothing caught fire, she ran from the area away
from the shower.  One of the post-docs used his lab coat to smother the
flames.  911 was called.  UCLA Fire Dept. and emergency medical, Los
Angeles City Fire, and Los Angeles County Haz Mat.  The EMTs put the
employee in the safety shower for gross decon and then transported her
to the ER.  She's currently in the Grossman burn unit in Sherman Oaks
with second degree burns on her arms and third degree burns on her
hands, a total of about 40% of her body.  There was very little damage
to the lab.  Bill has not interviewed the employee.

Cal/OSHA began their investigation of the accident on Monday, 1/5/09,
asking for training records, accident report, etc.  UCLA EH&S has begun
an audit of the Molecular Sciences Building, where the accident
happened.  The building is the home for much of the Chemistry Department
research, principally organic.

Ya'll be careful out there.

Debbie M. Decker, Campus Chemical Safety Officer
Environmental Health and Safety
University of California, Davis
1 Shields Ave.
Davis, CA  95616
(530)754-7964/(530)752-4527 (FAX)
Co-Conspirator to Make the World A 
Better Place -- Visit and join the conspiracy

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