As you point out there were many troubling things about this incident. The most glaring ones to me are:
1) Not following the established protocol for the experiment. The paper they were following specified intrinsically safe equipment.
2) None existent or not sufficient (or possibly ignored) lab procedures for dealing with flammables. Even if the paper did not specify there should have been lab procedures for bonding and grounding and also for use of intrinsically safe equipment when it exists.
3) Ignoring a previous incident. The week before this incident there was an incident in a smaller similar set-up.
4) Dismissing the concerns of the person doing the work. She reported that she was experiencing occasional static shocks and there was no follow up.
Thank you DCHAS for sharing this information. The only good out of a tragedy like this can be that it serves as a wake up to any who may grumble about all the "unnecessary" safety protocols that we have in place and how much extra time it takes to incorporate those steps. It reminds us that safety really does matter.
I read the story from the fire department. Glad it is being shared with the public and the scientific community. Sounds like they probably identified the cause. They called this an "accident" which I think means it was not intentional to the fire department, but the public may take this to mean it was just one of those freaky accidental things that happen.
I understand why they used it but I don't like the term accident - this was a preventable incident from several aspects. The investigators seemingly did not consider the risks of explosions from generating sparks from at least this switch. The early warning from the minor explosion was not recognized as significant. We can guess the report from the UC Lab Safety Institute should be addressing these points as they will be more focused on lab safety.
I am sure we all wish other incidents were as well publicized as this one - thanks for all of those involved in the investigation and reporting to help us learn lessons that we can pass on to others. This is really one of the things that we need to develop strong safety cultures.
>From: Ralph Stuart
>Sent: Apr 20, 2016 11:21 AM
>Subject: [DCHAS-L] C&EN Safety Zone blog: [New post] Spark from pressure gauge caused University of Hawaii explosion
>Spark from pressure gauge caused University of Hawaii explosion
>by Jyllian Kemsley
>From my story at C&EN:
>An explosion last month that caused a University of Hawaii, Manoa, postdoctoral researcher to lose an arm was caused by a spark from a digital pressure gauge that was not designed for use with flammable gases, says a Honolulu Fire Department investigation report.
>Go read the story for more, including some context about how the lab's experimental set-up seems to have changed, based on a prior publication from the lab compared to what Ekins-Coward and the PI told investigators.
>The University of California Center for Laboratory Safety investigation report is expected to be finished by the end of this month. The Hawaii Occupational Safety & Health Division is also investigating the incident.
>Other coverage and commentary:=E2=80=A8U Hawaii story with recording of press briefing - Investigation continues into lab explosion at UH=E2=80=A8Chemjobber - More details on the UH-Manoa incident: explosion probably due to sparking pressure gauge=E2=80=A8KHON - Investigating entity hired by UH founded after similar laboratory explosion(KHON and other Hawaiian news organizations also had other stories, but this one went beyond just reporting the facts in the fire department report)
>Jyllian Kemsley | April 20, 2016 at 10:01 am | Tags: #UHawaii | Categories: Academia, Accidents, Featured | URL: http://wp.me/pRCdG-Eoe
Robert H. Hill, Jr., Ph.D.
Stone Mountain, GA 30087
"The Safety Ethic: I value safety, work safely, prevent at-risk behavior, promote safety, and accept responsibility for safety."
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