I agree Ralph. If every incident is code red, then people get numb to real emergencies.
People should respect chemicals and be familiar with proper handling (be required to read SDSs first, etc.). People shouldn't be fearful. Fear causes accidents.
From: DCHAS-L Discussion List [mailto:dchas-l**At_Symbol_Here**MED.CORNELL.EDU] On Behalf Of Ralph Stuart
Sent: Wednesday, April 22, 2015 9:41 AM
Subject: Re: [DCHAS-L] Concern about one of today's incident reports
>Does this strike anyone else that this was overkill? I am all for caution and safety, but I am afraid we are not promoting either if every spill results in a full blown evacuation and HZMAT incident.
To add some context to this question, and in follow up to an off-line question from someone on the list, I did some quick work with the public data that ASTDR released last week. You may remember that the ASTDR reported that the educational industry was one of the top 5 sectors for chemical incidents.
Based on the data in the infographic at
http://cen.acs.org/articles/93/i16/Accident-Analysis.html , the number of evacuees per incident in the educational sector is almost 400; the next highest is 250 for chemical manufacturers. So although educational hazmat events have lower injury rates than chem manufacturers (although not gigantically lower: 7.6 people injured per incident in chemical manufacturing and 6.5 in education), events in education affect a lot more people. This makes sense based on the perceived vulnerability of the population.
Based on an educated guess by looking at the chemicals involved, it appears that 50% of the events report in the educational sector are related to laboratory chemicals and 20% to facility chemicals. The remaining 30% are mercury, which could come from any of three sources: 1) lab work, 2) facility equipment (e.g. mercury switches) or 3) a student bringing it in to share with their friends. I suspect the third is the most common.
I would note that the ASTDR data reports about 9 events per week in the educational sector (extrapolating from the states reporting in their survey to the country as a whole), which is more than I generally see in scanning google headlines (about 5/week, including global events), so they may have more access to data than is reported in the press.
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