Yale student killed in machine shop accident

A Yale University senior, Michele Dufault, was killed last night in an accident in the chemistry department machine shop. Although the university says only that it was “a terrible accident involving a piece of equipment,” the New Haven Register reports that Dufault’s hair was caught in a spinning lathe and was dead when emergency responders arrived.

Dufault was an astronomy and physics major who helped organize the Northeast Conference for Undergraduate Women in Physics in January.

An AP story says that “The university told the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration that Dufault was operating the machinery for a senior project when she was killed.” A commenter to a Yale Daily News story says that “Michele was very competently trained. She took two semesters of shop training and knew her way around the machines.”

C&EN has its annual staff meeting over the rest of the week, so I’ll try to keep tabs on this but will largely be otherwise occupied. As more information comes out, feel free to post it in the comments.

And remember this basic safety rule that applies to the lab as much as machine shops: Tie back long hair.

Other blogosphere discussion so far: CENtral Science’s own Transition States, Chemistry Blog, The Great Beyond, Science Careers

Update from Yale University President Richard C. Levin, via an e-mail from the university’s public affairs office:

Last night, Michele’s hair got caught in a lathe as she worked on a project in the student machine shop in the Sterling Chemistry Laboratory. Her body was found by other students who had been working in the building. They called the police, who responded immediately.

Michele was an exceptional science student who was pursuing a B.S. in astronomy and physics. She also had keen interest in oceanography and was intending to undertake work in that field after graduation. She was an enthusiastic saxophonist in the Yale Band, and a widely admired member of the Saybrook College community.

The safety of our students is a paramount concern. The University has programs to train students before they use power equipment. Nonetheless, I have initiated a thorough review of the safety policies and practices of laboratories, machine shops, and other facilities with power equipment that is accessed and operated by undergraduates. This includes arts as well as science facilities. Steven Girvin, Deputy Provost for Science and Technology, will lead the review. Until the review is completed, Yale College will limit undergraduate access to facilities with power equipment to hours that will be specified by the end of the week; monitors will be present at these times in all such locations.

Author: Jyllian Kemsley

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