I was not going to jump in and still I cannot believe I am writing this.
Good point Peter. We need to be careful when we bring #s into the discussion and make statement like: "universities do not care about safety". I was there long time ago and, way back then, safety was one of the issues that people care about. Note that safety issues will stay with no matter what we do and how perfect we become ???). My thoughts are that we need to "slow down" on pointing out who is the best and who is the worst when it comes down to describing incidents. The best thing we can do is to take up a scenario and try to provide the best techniques (practices) to prevent it from happening elsewhere. And I think we do that well. It is easy to blame others when an incident happens (especially when serious), yet if it happens to us (personally) we try to justify it. Yes, industry and national labs may do better in certain things and so do universities (comparatively).
Mikhail Alnajjar, PhD
Senior Research Scientist
Chemical Hygiene Officer
Yes, it is hard not to comment on this excellent discussion.
Mike - I know you know this, but to clarify your statement-federal OSHA neither has regulations, nor jurisdiction, over State, municipal, or volunteer fire departments, except in approved OSHA state plan states (e.g., California) and states that have passed their own OSHA laws for the public sector. This means that state and public sector workers are not covered by the OSHA act or an OSHA approved state plan in 25 states, 3 territories and the District of Columbia. So OSHA does not apply to colleges and universities in Texas, Florida, Wisconsin, Ohio, Pennsylvania, etc., although some state employee safety laws may apply.
Some other points: I respect the opinions of the referenced safety experts who believe that, in general, academic labs are less safe than industrial labs, but to quote a figure like "11 times" or "10-50" implies that there is reliable data to support that opinion-and there are none. It is irresponsible to state this as anything more than an opinion.
Like all generalizations, this one wrongly gives a pass to those non-existent safety programs I've seen in many commercial research labs and paints the many excellent academic safety programs as inferior. The U.S. higher education system is the envy of the world, partly because each professor has tremendous autonomy. And because of this autonomy, safety culture and performance vary from lab to lab within a university-which is another reason why this "statement" is misleading and diverts our attention from making ALL labs safer.
This urban myth has been discussed on this listserve previously. We need to memorialize this discussion so we don=E2=80™t keep repeating the same malarkey (just like we keep repeating the same accidents).
Peter A. Reinhardt
Director, Office of Environmental Health & Safety
135 College St., Suite 100
New Haven, CT 06510-2411
p.s., Don't miss the great article in Chemical and Engineering News on the safety of tattoo inks. ("Hey, let's put an unknown chemical into our skin so we are exposed to it for the rest of our lives!")
I hadn't planned to weigh in on this, but it's hard to resist. We represent people who work in industrial labs, and those who work in university labs, so I and my colleagues have seen both, and I've personally consulted some with teachers unions with respect to high school labs. I don't claim this is any sort of representative sample, or that it's at all comprehensive. Nor can I cite statistics, primarily because they mostly don't exist, and where they do, we don't trust them. I absolutely agree with Ray Cook's comments - except that I wouldn't limit them to industrial settings. There's just as much incentive to underreport in academe.
So take this for what it's worth. But in our experience, industrial labs are way ahead of academic labs when it comes to effective safety programs, including hazard identification, risk assessment, incident investigation, personal protective equipment, and especially training. In addition, since most industrial employers know that OSHA covers them, they know that the OSHA lab standard exists, and that they can get fined for non-compliance. A lot of academic labs don't think that OSHA applies to them, which is wrong, as the UC Regents found out.
However, the statement that "OSHA statistics" show that academic labs have 11 times the injury rate of academic labs is, to use an academic phrase, "unsupported by any evidence." (The equivalent industrial phrase would be shorter and less polite.) And it's one of those statements where, when you try to track it down, you find that everybody is citing each other in a big circle. There's an impolite phrase for that too, but I won't use it.
Michael J. Wright
Director of Health, Safety and Environment
See us on the web at www.usw.org
Bear in mind too, in an industrial environment there is often an unfortunate built in incentive to not report incidents if it can be avoided. Mgmt pushing for no incidents, repercussions by misguided managers, etc.
This leads to underreporting of incidents in all industries, & unfortunately skips the best opportunities to fix problems prior to serious consequences.
On Aug 10, 2016, at 9:00 AM, Benjamin G Owens <bowens**At_Symbol_Here**UNR.EDU> wrote:
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.
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