I was quite struck by comments that
the gauge described in the experiment was specified as "intrinsically
safe." OSHA defines "intrinsically safe" at 29 CFR 1910.307(c)(3) as "equipment and associated wiring approved as
intrinsically safe is permitted in any hazardous (classified) location
for which it is approved." The regulation "covers the requirements for electric equipment
and wiring in locations that are classified depending on the properties
of the flammable vapors, liquids or gases, or combustible dusts or
fibers that may be present therein and the likelihood that a flammable
or combustible concentration or quantity is present."
I looked up the language of the paper, and here is what it says:
"The gas pressure was measured by a high accuracy digital gauge with a
certificate of NIST-traceable calibration (Ashcroft
68330, accuracy 0.05% full scale,
resolution 0.0007 atm, Cole-Parmer, Vernon Hills, IL)." Therefore, the focus of the language in the paper is on the accuracy of the
gauge, not the safety features. So, I googled the gauge and noted that
Cole-Palmer and noted the website indicated:
1. Intrinsically-safe, portable test gauges meet ASME B40.7 requirements
2. NEMA 4/IP65 rated stainless steel casing
Looking up ASME B40.7, it appears to be about "Pressure Digital Indicating" and the IP rating is about ingress of solids and liquids and the NEMA rating is about the construction to prevent user from accessing hazardous parts and to prevent solids and water from entering.
Opening the gauge's manual from the Cole-Palmer website, I see that the words "intrinsically" or "safe" do not appear anywhere in the document. There is a reference to an FM approval (Factory Mutual Research Corporations), an OSHA recognized third-party certifier for classifying equipment for hazardous environments (e.g., flammable). How would a researcher know about the "intrinsically safe" classification unless they looked it up on seller's website or had been trained about such a certification process and recognized what the "FM" in the manual might stand for? I don't know about anyone else on the listserve, but I didn't learn what "intrinsically safe" meant until I started working at the CSB (and I worked with hydrogen in grad school). This makes me think about a good presentation at the last Boston ACS meeting by someone in industry that was trying to develop a system (tied to electronic notebooks) to deliver safety information to researchers at the "right" time.
I was quite struck by comments that the gauge described in the experiment was specified as "intrinsically safe." I looked up the language of the paper, and here is what it says:
"The gas pressure was measured by a high accuracy digital gauge with a certificate of NIST-traceable calibration (Ashcroft 68330, accuracy 0.05% full scale, resolution 0.0007 atm, Cole-Parmer, Vernon Hills, IL)."
=B7 The focus is on the accuracy of the gauge, not the safety features. So, I googled the gauge and noted that Cole-Palmer and noted the website posted:
Intrinsically-safe, portable test gauges meet ASME B40.7 requirements
=B7 NEMA 4/IP65 rated stainless steel casingOn Wed, Apr 20, 2016 at 2:25 PM, Frazier, Alicia S <Alicia.S.Frazier**At_Symbol_Here**tsocorp.com> wrote:
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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