Date: Wed, 29 Jun 2011 12:12:05 -0400
Reply-To: DCHAS-L Discussion List <DCHAS-L**At_Symbol_Here**LIST.UVM.EDU>
Sender: DCHAS-L Discussion List <DCHAS-L**At_Symbol_Here**LIST.UVM.EDU>
From: Margaret Rakas <mrakas**At_Symbol_Here**SMITH.EDU>
Subject: Re: Boston College incident follow up
In-Reply-To: <1677852553957F45BA7188EE44766EB34C8C710A86**At_Symbol_Here**>>

Frank Demer's database and that of the AIHA are terrific. Frank's stands out to me because of the institutional support, while the AIHA database is 'anonymous'--you don't know where the incidents occurred.
While I don't doubt many institutions do have a 'what happened/how to prevent it' review, that knowledge often appears to be kept within the institution.  Whether this is for legal reasons, or the PR folks don't like to have this information available, or another reason, I don't know.  And of course, from time to time C&E News will print letters from researchers about an experiment that should have been standard, but wasn't.  What is particularly helpful about a database collated by EH&S is that you can see accidents that occurred in biology, biochem, neuroscience labs, etc.  These are important chemical-use research areas where the researchers are not focused on the chemical aspects and might be reluctant to go to a "Accidents in Chemistry Labs" blog or even know about C&E News.
The "we don't talk about it to outsiders" response has happened to me personally as I tried to follow up with a college in New England regarding a chemical fire that was reported via the news.  It hit home because a year or so earlier, they had contacted me about an accident here.  I shared my details with them and other colleges in our New England Small Colleges Association, precisely so a repeat incident could be avoided elsewhere.  Unfortunately their institution did not permit reciprocati on.  And I think if you look at a number of these incidents, many which don't involve employees (and bring in OSHA) or which occur at private institutions (so no FOIA requirements) are not shared with the community beyond what is first reported in the news (and we know how helpful THAT is at getting to the root cause!)  And they should be, at least in a database that shields the institution, if desired.
My personal opinion only, not legal or business advice, and may not be the opinion of my employer or any group to which I belong.
Margaret Rakas

>>> "Koza, Mary Beth (Environment Health & Safety)"              <MBKOZA**At_Symbol_Here**EHS.UNC.EDU> 6/29/2011 11:20 AM >>&g t;


I take exception to suggesting that  serious academic institutional/departmental follow-up response is not a normal part of the accident review.  Many academic institutions have a process, consisting of  root cause analysis and lessons learned.  Making such a broad statement is counterproductive to the importance of safety.

Mary Beth Koza

Director of EHS

University of North Carolina - Ch

From: DCHAS-L Discussion List [mailto:DCHAS-L**At_Symbol_Here**list.uvm .edu] On Behalf Of ILPI
Sent: Tuesday, June 28, 2011 11:25 PM
To: DCHAS-L**At_Symbol_Here**LIST.UVM.EDU
Subject: Re: [DCHAS-L] Boston College incident follow up

I concur that realistic, repetitive training can go a long way to ameliorating panic reactions in emergency situations.  Alas, the resources and institutional commitment for this sort of thing are lacking in most academic situations, and for some folks it just won't ever sink in.

One low-cost method that may be effective is to place a site-specific poster-size emergency checklist in the most visible common area of the laboratory/suite.   Focus on the most important response issue (fire/explosion, for example) only.  Hopefully, the workers in the area will better retain their key emergency response skills (or eventually learn them through osmosis) or perhaps they may even turn to the poster in an emergency (911 called, fire alarm pulled, evacuation, personnel accounted for etc. etc.).   As a small example of what I mean, see the fire checklist I have posted at shers.html#Using 

I have never personally seen laboratory safety training materials discuss that the trainee or his/her coworkers may freeze, panic, or do something completely wrong in an emergency situation.  A coworker's inappropriate reaction can not only be distracting or disorienting, it can compound an already bad situation.   I encourage everyone to include this topic in their training courses.

Recent events (UCLA, Yale etc.) aside, I have never personally seen serious academic institutional/departmental follow-up response with Lessons Learned from minor accidents, major incidents, or near misses.   Having a protocol for a formal analysis (What happened?  Facts instead of departmental gossip.  What went wrong? How could this be avoided? What SOP's should change?  etc.), ensuring that the analysis is distributed to all possible stakeholders, and archiving it on an easily accessible web site is a great way of making sure that history does not repeat itself.   I have the impression that this kind of analysis is the norm at places like DuPont, but, sadly, in my own personal experience, academic institutions often fail to do so either out of liability/publicity concerns, leadership inertia/vacuum, or both.     Formal accident followups should be SOP and the importance of these should be stressed in academic safety training courses.

Finally, those archived incidents make great case studies that should be utilized in laboratory training.  After giving the full spiel, take the time to pull out a couple of case studies and ask the trainees what should have been done, what could have been improved etc.  Interactive training forces the trainees to think about the issues and the instructor achieves instant feedback on how effective the training has been.  This makes training a much more interesting experience for both parties.   If you are fortunate enough not to have any site-specific cases to use, a wealth of them are available at ha/volunteergroups/labHandScommittee/Pages/LaboratorySafetyIncidents.aspx  The unexpected dangers reported at also afford additional scenarios.

Rob Toreki

  =============== ========================= ==============

Safety Emporium - Lab & Safety Supplies featuring brand names

you know and trust.  Visit us at

esales**At_Symbol_Here**safetye  or toll-free: (866) 326-5412

Fax: (856) 553-6154, PO Box 1003, Blackwood, NJ 08012< /o:p>

On Jun 28, 2011, at 8:26 PM, Peter Zavon wrote:

On Tuesday, June 28, 2011 David C. Finster said to the DCHAS-L Discussion
List in part:

I would "second" Brad's comments about the need for training

and education that exposes students to simulated events and

that is heavily based on repetition.  Truth is:  people panic

when confronted with unexpected events and, in knowing this,

it's almost laughable that one of first "rules" we teach in a

panic-inducing situation is "not to panic." Yeah, right.  So,

I tell students to go ahead and "panic" (for a BRIEF moment!)

to get that out of the way and then "go back to your


Since panic is a visceral reaction that prevents reason and logical
thinking, it seems to me that telling people "not to panic," either in
training or at the time of a frightening event, is one of the most useless
instructional activities imaginable. Repetitive simulated practice that
other have endorsed is the way to go. That is likely to prevent panic by
reducing the novelty of the situation.

"Don't panic" as an instructional step is on a par with "Be more careful" in
counseling someone whose apparent lack of attention is thought to have
caused an "accident." Both phrases make the speaker fell better, but neither
conveys actionable guidance.

Peter Zavon, CIH
Penfield, NY


Previous post   |  Top of Page   |   Next post

The content of this page reflects the personal opinion(s) of the author(s) only, not the American Chemical Society, ILPI, Safety Emporium, or any other party. Use of any information on this page is at the reader's own risk. Unauthorized reproduction of these materials is prohibited. Send questions/comments about the archive to
The maintenance and hosting of the DCHAS-L archive is provided through the generous support of Safety Emporium.