In 2011, when I was the President-Elect of theCampus Safety Health and Environmental Management Association (CSHEMA), I contacted Dr. James Kaufman, Lab Safety Institute, about his comments on safety in academic research laboratories. Later in 2013, I contacted William Banholzer, Dow Chemical Company, lead author of the Importance of Teaching Safety comment letter in C&EN. I asked both where they got their statistics. I spoke with Dr. Kaufman and Dr. Banholzer by phone and email. Dr. Kaufman relayed that he based his estimates on surveys he did with a few chemistry departments in the 1980’s and he later published the results in the Journal of Chemical Education. (Dr. Kaufman did offer to partner with CSHEMA to derive more accurate information. CSHEMA does benchmark injury-illness rates for their institutions in their benchmark surveys.) Dr. Banholzer explained that he compared the overall BLS injury-illness rate for the College and University Sector to the injury-illness rate for Dow Chemical Co., not the Chemical Manufacturing Sector, which resulted in the statement in their comment letter that people were 11 times more likely to be injured in an academic lab as compared to an industrial lab.
I pointed out to Dr. Banholzer that a more accurate comparison is a sector-to-sector comparison, as opposed to comparing a whole sector to a single best-in-class company. (Using this rationale, that of comparing against Dow Chemical at that time, one could have said that DuPont and Corning “labs”, co-signers of the C&EN letter, have injury-illness rates in their “labs” that are 3 to 5 times higher than that of a “industrial lab”.)
I also shared our institution’s data, which showed that injury-illness rate in our academic research and teaching laboratories is much lower than the rate for our university as a whole (most serious accidents are slips-trips-falls, vehicle-pedestrian accidents, and other incidents outside of labs). Dr. Banholzer was not convinced, citing that most universities do not include student injury data in their injury-illness data and do not include injury rates of university contractors in their data. (I can provide copies of our correspondence, if needed for your study.) He and other industry safety people have pointed out that they feel they need to put college and university undergraduates and graduates through an extensive safety and compliance primer when first hired, because the graduates are not receiving this information during their college education experience.
Dr. Kaufman, Dr. Banholzer and I all agree, however, that attitudes towards, and behaviors regarding, safety must improve in our academic research laboratories. Too many serious accidents do occur. And we must carry this concern beyond labs to all facets of the lives of our students, faculty, staff, contractors and visitors. We must encourage people to continue to take risks in order to innovate and add to our body of knowledge, but to do an appropriate risk analysis first and implement a safety management system to mitigate those risks.
Environmental Health and Safety
Washington University in St. Louis
Campus Box 1010
7509 Forsyth Boulevard, Suite 130
St. Louis, MO 63105
Fax: (314) 935-9266
Craig Merlic (UCLA) asked Jim Kaufman about it and Jim stated that there was no basis for the number but that it was his estimation many years ago.
I have heard the same story as what Ben Owens shared.
It’s nearly impossible to compare rates for the reasons already mentioned and because:
· BLS data does not include students unless they are being compensated for the work they were doing. Some universities include graduate students receiving a stipend, some do not.
· Most universities are exempt from reporting, but are asked to do so voluntarily.
· There is no mechanism for collecting laboratory incident data on a national level.
· It’s not easy to pull out lab-related incident data from BLS statistics. For example, if our rate was 2.3 per 100 in 2015, maybe one of the incidents was lab-related, while the vast majority were maintenance, housekeeping and culinary-related.
Several universities have compared their own statistics to the national data and those of some industrial companies known for their robust safety programs and have not found a significant difference in rates, meaning close to (or even lower than) the Dow or Dupont stats, not an order of magnitude greater.
Nonetheless, the safety culture in academia is immensely important, not just to reduce injuries and illnesses, but to start the good habits early. The mechanism for managing safety in academia is very different than for industry – the lines of management, the access to a student’s time, so much more. I know that most of my colleagues take this responsibility very, very seriously. ACS, National Academies, APLU and others have helped universities look beyond their EHS programs to faculty, administrators, university leadership and everyone involved in the community of safety. It really does take a village.
Robin M. Izzo
Environmental Health and Safety
Visit the EHS website at ehs.princeton.edu
As others have indicated I believe that Jim Kaufman may be the source of the statement in one form or another.
In the Fourth Edition (1995) of the CRC Handbook of Laboratory Safety (page 218), edited by Keith Furr, the statement, “…it has been estimated that the accident rate is 10 to 50 times higher (my note: in reference to academic labs) than that in industrial laboratories.” In 2003 I asked Jim Kaufman if he knew the origin of this statistic and he indicated that Keith Furr was probably referring to a statement that he (Kaufman) had made. Jim stated that he had looked at various sources of information over the years but that the accident rate in academic labs continued to be about 10 – 100 times greater than that of industrial labs. He stated that the statement is an estimate and that it is not based on a single data set.
University of Nevada, Reno
From: DCHAS-L Discussion List [mailto:dchas-l**At_Symbol_Here**med.cornell.edu]On Behalf Of Melissa Charlton-Smith
Sent: Tuesday, August 09, 2016 5:08 PM
Subject: [DCHAS-L] Source of the OSHA statement
ok I have been trying to find the original source for the following statement:
"...Occupational Safety & Health Administration statistics demonstrate that researchers are 11 times more likely to get hurt in an academic lab than in an industrial lab."
I have seen this statement referenced many times in articles. In fact in one of the articles I read it was said to be quote from an interview. Sometimes it is referenced, and then when I track down the reference, it just refers to another article that uses the exact same wording, without a reference. No matter who said it first...where is the research? Where are the statistics? Where is the report? What journal do I find it in?
Thanks everybody, just trying to track down the paper, or the OSHA stats or what have you. I want to USE that information in a report I am working on, but I want a real reference to go by.
Previous post | Top of Page | Next post