Date: Thu, 29 Dec 2011 09:35:46 -0800
Reply-To: DCHAS-L <DCHAS-L**At_Symbol_Here**MED.CORNELL.EDU>
Sender: DCHAS-L Discussion List <dchas-l**At_Symbol_Here**med.cornell.edu>
From: Eric Clark <erclark**At_Symbol_Here**PH.LACOUNTY.GOV>
Subject: Re: UCLA Death
Several years ago I was a state RCRA inspector (in another state) and we were doing an inspection at a major university. We were in a chemistry laboratory and the professor in charge of the lab was not around, so we interviewed a post-doc researcher who was clearly annoyed at our presence. He kept his back to us while he was working (like they always do on the show Law & Order) and explained that their lab was engaged in important Federal research and whatever it was we were doing there was not a priority for them. And he mentioned once or twice that he had a PhD. Then he tried to turn the tables on us and asked us about our own background in chemistry and if we even understood what they were doing. We finally got some cooperation from a graduate student RA who showed us the lab's hazardous waste management procedures. During the exit interview the departmenthead was clearly embarrassed by the post-doc's remarks and assured us that was not the University's nor the Chemistry Department's position on regulatory compliance. But this kind of arrogance seemed to be quite prevalent.
Eric Clark, MS, CCHO, CHMM
Safety & Compliance Officer
Los Angeles County Public Health Laboratory
>>> On 12/28/2011 at 4:48 PM, in message <5A38A050612848A4B5942D38538C3F32**At_Symbol_Here**smithrocket>, Jean & Ken Smith <smith.j.k**At_Symbol_Here**SBCGLOBAL.NET> wrote:
Ugly headline about the death of a student, but warranted in my opinion ----
UCLA could be fined up to $1.5 million on each of the three counts. In separate statements Tuesday, UCLA and the regents called the charges unwarranted. UCLA's statement blasted them as "outrageous" and "appalling."
"This isn't justice," Kevin Reed, UCLA vice chancellor for legal affairs, said in an interview. "What happened in December 2008 was a tragedy, an unfathomable tragedy. It was not a crime."
In my 20 years of Cal/OSHA as an IH inspector, I found that universities laboratories were places that lacked many health and safety needs. Primarily, the reasons were that the professors only gave lip service to safety as long as it did not impinge on their time and authority. They were loath to even see us when we came to inspect and had to be dragged out to even be interviewed, much less be confronted with evidence.
Many did not even seem to know much about health and safety and what was needed in their labs to protect their students, and even themselves. The EHS departments had little to no authority to cause changes if the department head demurred. Not a good situation overall.
Perhaps this will wake up the University of California and others around the country to the need for a decent H&S environment in the labs and where chemicals are used. It also harks back to the machine shop death a while back in an eastern university. The students need the training to protect their selvesand to protect the schools from disasters such as these. But mostly, the professors need the training the most, and perhaps a lesson or two in being humble.
Former CIH, now retired
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