I have not been able to find any facts to support the statement that academic labs are ten times more hazardous than industrial labs. In fact, the only “hard” evidence I can find is looking at the Lab Safety Institute’s Memorial Wall (http://www.labsafetyinstitute.org/MemorialWall.html). Of the 18 laboratory deaths listed for the United States in the past ten years, only 4 were at universities. One could make the conclusion that academic labs are safer than other labs based on that data.
To me, the issue is not whether academic or industrial labs are safer. Rather the issue is: can we make all labs safer? I think we can all agree the answer to that question is “yes.” So, let’s focus on that question rather than debating whether academic labs are really less safe than industrial labs.
Peter Ashbrook, Director
Division of Research Safety
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
I am working on my dissertation and I’m trying to locate the injury rate in academic labs as compared to industrial labs. I have fact-checked the statement about “researchers are 11 times more likely to get hurt in academic labs than in an industrial lab” and have questioned the accuracy of that statement. I have since seen this statistic perpetuated in recent safety articles and reports about lab safety but no reference exists for the statistic..
I have not found Bureau of Labor Statistics data regarding injuries in academic labs. If there was, it would not include most public academic labs, nor would it include non-employee (student) injuries in labs. The closest data I have found is incidence rates for colleges, universities and professional schools- which includes all employees that works at a university. Furthermore, I have not been able to find the injury rate for “industrial” labs. There are rates for chemical manufacturing but that would include everyone that works at a chemical manufacturer (not just labs).
If someone knows where I can access academic/industrial laboratory injury rate data, let me know.
Dennis Nolan, MPH, MS, CBSP CCHO
Environmental Health and Safety
The University of Texas at Austin
304 East 24th Street Ste 221
Austin, TX 78712
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