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UC, Patrick Harran face criminal charges in death of Sheri Sangji

Sangji's syringe (Credit: UCLA)

The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office filed charges yesterday against the University of California and UC Los Angeles professor Patrick Harran for felony violations of labor laws in the death of chemistry researcher Sheharbano (Sheri) Sangji.

Sangji died three years ago from injuries sustained in a laboratory fire.

My story should post online soon and will appear in Monday’s issue of C&EN. In the meantime, here are links to other coverage and blogosphere/twittersphere discussion:

For my part right now, I’d like to address a few frequent comments I keep hearing or seeing:

  • “Sangji was a graduate student” – No, she was a staff researcher. She was therefore also indisputably an employee. Whether graduate students or postdocs are considered employees is a gray area that affects things such as whether they are eligible for worker’s compensation or OSHA agencies have oversight authority.
  • “Sangji was an experienced chemist” – She was experienced in one specific context, which is that she was experienced for a 23-year-old who had graduated the previous spring with a bachelor’s degree in chemistry. She was no more experienced than a first- or at most second-year graduate student.
  • “Sangji was working alone” – There was someone in the lab with her and someone else in an adjacent office. It’s unclear, however, if either knew what Sangji was doing experimentally.
  • “Sangji was killed because she wasn’t wearing a lab coat” – The lack of a lab coat was one of several factors in the incident. Nevertheless, had Sangji been wearing a flame-resistant lab coat (not a standard polyester/cotton one!), her injuries probably would have been less severe. It would also have helped had she gone straight for the safety shower or stopped/dropped/rolled to put out the flames.

The other thing I see floating around the internet today is variations on: “Sangji chose to do the experiment the way she did, she killed herself, the professor shouldn’t shoulder the blame.” But in California, at least (and probably elsewhere, but I’m most familiar with California), employers and employee managers are legally required to uphold occupational safety or health standards. That means that employers must train, retrain, remind, and enforce. And that’s why industrial workers get fired for not working safely–because if their employer allowed them to keep doing so, their employer would be liable for whatever bad things might happen.

Which brings us to why UC (Sangji’s employer) and Harran (Sangji’s manager) are now on the hook in this case. From the charges, this is what was legally expected of them:

  • Correct unsafe workplace conditions and procedures in a timely manner – an inspection two months before the fire identified multiple problems in the lab, including people not wearing personal protective equipment, and it’s unclear how many of the problems were addressed
  • Require clothing appropriate for the work to be worn – but Sangji was wearing a polyester shirt and no flame-resistant lab coat
  • Provide chemical safety training to employees. Implement safe work practices, emergency procedures and personal protective equipment – Sangji did not receive university Environmental Health & Safety training, it appears that one-on-one training was lacking, she did not use the procedure recommended by the chemical manufacturer or Harran, and she was not wearing personal protective equipment

Legally, this also hinges on the word “willfully”: Did UCLA and Harran do their best to enforce safe work behavior or did they let things slide?

For those who still think that a professor should not be held liable for what happens in his or her lab, let me ask this: If a UCLA facilities manager sent a worker up to trim a tree without ensuring that the worker knew how to handle a chainsaw or that the worker used fall-prevention equipment, and the worker somehow got killed, would you be shocked by criminal charges against the manager? If not, then why hold a professor to a different standard?

Updated to add some links I missed earlier.

33 Comments

  • Dec 28th 201121:12
    by Russ Phifer

    Great comments, Jyllian. Your reasoning on holding PIs to the same standard as other managers is justified and appropriate. It will be interesting to see just how the word “willfully” is applied; the fact that CAL OSHA found a clear lack of training and oversight should provide the answer. In his interviews today, Kevin Reed of UCLA tried to maximize Sangji’s level of experience, both in the laboratory and in working with t-butyl lithium; the evidence doesn’t support his claim.

  • Dec 28th 201122:12
    by Curious Wavefunction

    Excellent summary. I am just afraid that these charges might set an unfortunate precedent and lead to unintended repercussions for the education of young chemists and the public perception of chemistry. I think we do have to view this unfortunate accident in the grand scheme of things. Plus, while your point about the professor being a manager who enforces protocol is correct, I think the degree of involvement of the professor in doing this is still fuzzy and ill-defined. There’s more in my latest post.

  • Dec 28th 201123:12
    by Jyllian Kemsley

    @Russ – You were busy fielding interviews today, too! Yes, Cal/OSHA did find violations, but the agency labeled them as serious rather than willful. Can the DA prove willful beyond a reasonable doubt?

    @CW – I added your post to the list above.

  • [...] Curious Wavefunction on the culpability of the professor in this case and an excellent piece from Jyllian Kemsley, summarizing the situation, tackling some misperceptions and also including quite a blog roll of [...]

  • Dec 29th 201111:12
    by Melissa Turman

    Thanks for the excellent roundup and comments, Jyllian.

    I think this is an extreme and tragic case that reflects an unfortunately widespread problem, especially in academic laboratories. It’s not that academic labs do not value safety, so much as we too often see the trainings and paperwork as one more thing we don’t have time for. It’s further compounded by the fact that most institutions are so large and diverse, there’s no feasible way for small health & safety offices to keep track of all training or to regularly inspect labs and enforce rules.

    Although the current flurry of posting was ignited by criminal charges and the question of legal responsibility, what about the ethical responsibilities of the professor and other co-workers? As scientists (especially those funded by governmental agencies), we are expected to engage in ethical and responsible conduct of research. Usually that focuses on accurate representation of data, protection of human subjects, use of original work, etc. But creating a safe working environment is just as much a part of responsible research.

  • Dec 29th 201111:12
    by Jyllian Kemsley

    @Melissa – Yes, there are a lot of demands on faculty time. I think that’s one reason why safety has to be an institutional effort. If it’s not an expected, valued part of a professor’s job, all the way up the chain of command, then faculty will focus on whatever is valued.

    Lack of managerial training for professors is probably also a problem that plays into this. Industry managers likely fare far better, there.

    And you’re right about including safety in responsible conduct of research. I know that Alice Young is making lab safety an explicit part of Texas Tech’s RCR programs, but I’m not sure about other schools.

  • Dec 29th 201114:12
    by Paul

    @JK: I am not a lawyer. but it appears to me that since Cal/OSHA made the university aware of the violations, if they were not then corrected then the violations could become willful.

    http://www.osha.gov/Firm_osha_data/100007.html

  • Dec 29th 201114:12
    by Eric

    Civil responsibility I understand, but criminal responsibility is absurd.

  • Dec 29th 201115:12
    by Jyllian Kemsley

    @Paul – Yes, that is true generally. But DA is looking at the same incident that Cal/OSHA did, so it’s a matter of what UCLA knew *at the time of the incident*.

    @Eric – What’s your reasoning for absurd?

  • Dec 29th 201116:12
    by lumiere

    “If a UCLA facilities manager sent a worker up to trim a tree without ensuring that the worker knew how to handle a chainsaw or that the worker used fall-prevention equipment, and the worker somehow got killed, would you be shocked by criminal charges against the manager? If not, then why hold a professor to a different standard?”

    Really? This is an absolutely terrible comparison and positively reeks of cognitive dissonance. Sanji was an SRA, and as an SRA you are assumed to have knowledge of proper lab safety. Not only that, but if you are an SRA in an organic chemistry lab, you are assumed to have knowledge of organic chemistry reagents and have also experience in a real organic chemistry lab setting. They don’t just hire SRAs with no experience, straight out of college.

    Was there negligence? Probably. Was it a tragedy? Definitely. Was it criminal? not in the least.

  • Dec 29th 201116:12
    by Jyllian Kemsley

    @lumiere: Sangji graduated from Pomona with a bachelor’s degree in chemistry in May 2008. She worked for a pharmaceutical company for a few months, then started in Harran’s lab in October. You don’t think that’s pretty darn close to “straight out of college”?

  • Dec 29th 201121:12
    by Harry Elston

    (A little late to the discussion…)

    @Curious Wavefunction: I don’t think that the charges will set a “dangerous precedent” or endanger the public perception of chemistry at all. First and foremost – the charges are a “wake up call” for every academic research institution to get their stuff together when it comes to safety – from the top (Chancellor) on down to the PI. The charges are, in effect, saying “management/supervision *will* be held accountable for the safety of those who work for them.” The academy will be held to the same standards that their industrial counterparts have been measured by for decades.

    I do not think that the public perception of chemistry will not be harmed because of the charges any more than it was harmed by incidents of a far larger scale (BP Texas City, Bayer Cropscience, T2, etc.). Neither I do not think we’ll see a backlash against academic research or against t-BuLi (or any other singular chemical) because of the DA’s action on Tuesday.

    We in the field need to (almost continually) remind our friends and colleagues that (1) chemistry is not a zero-risk occupation and (2) chemical safety is about risk management: Well developed, focused training, hazard management and safe work practices all contribute to the reduction of risk.

    @Lumiere: If “SRA” means “senior research associate” – “senior” is a title that is not necessarily indicative of experience. JK points out that Sheri had, in actuality, very little REAL WORLD chemistry experience. A couple of months with a pharma lab is not a lot of time to learn the nuances of synthetic organic chemistry.

  • [...] Kemsley has a post that summarizes all of the coverage and commentary on the UCLA/Harran news. Her blog is undoubtedly [...]

  • Dec 30th 201116:12
    by Josh Bloom

    I suspect that the criminal charges have everything to do with the politics of the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office, and little to do with real life in the lab (which sounds like every other organic lab). All the training in the world will not prevent someone from screwing up with t-butyllithium once in a while. Bringing criminal charges against faculty in freak accidents makes no sense. Is Harran supposed to hold the bottle while the syringe is filling? And would he be charged if she *had* been wearing the lab coat? Or if she was simply injured? This is just plain nuts.

  • Dec 30th 201120:12
    by Harry Elston

    @Josh: I encourage you to read first the Cal/OSHA reports regarding UCLA’s chemical and laboratory safety programs after the incident. I think you may find them enlightening.

  • Jan 3rd 201211:01
    by Rob Hanes

    This is a travesty, a tragedy and certainly not criminal. Thousand of us have done these same types of experiments. There is a accepted risk of being a chemist, no different than being a race car driver or a football player, death and permanent injuries are an accepted part of the profession. It was this students responsibillty, it was her choice not to wear the protective gear. Prof. Harran should no more be held criminally negligent than the DA for bringing the case. This type of a case is a benchmark for our country, are we going to let lawyers and technocrats control our lives and protect us from ourselves, or are we going to embrace risk and responsbility of living in a free society.

  • Jan 3rd 201216:01
    by Concerned_Chemist

    One aspect of this that hasn’t been talked about at all is what about the graduate students in the professors lab? Worst case scenario, if Patrick Harran goes to prison, what will happen to them during all of this? And even if that doesn’t happen, I can’t imagine they will be unaffected. Will the lab continue normal operations or will they be suspended? I assume that the school administration won’t penalize Harran or his lab in anyway, as this might be considered some sort of admission of guilt?

  • Jan 4th 201217:01
    by Joe

    If a renownned PhD researcher and the leadership of a world class university are so arrogant and unwilling to put forth the effort to conduct some risk assessments and make their post docs wear lab coats when working with highly reactive chemicals they should all be fired. Also, if they knew this was an OSHA violation and still did not communicate and enforce these basic workrules they should be held to the willful violation penalties, and fired. Folks have written that Sangji was a college graduate and should have know better. Well, using the same arguement, the University and Researcher should have been experienced enough to know the rules and potential liability. The one thing I don’t like about the California law (as is the case with many criminal laws) is that criminal charges can only be brought after a death. I would assume that there are many post docs and laboratory technicians allowed to conduct similar experiments with no PPE. If a couple of those researchers or organizations were taken to task it would do wonders for laboratory safety.

  • Jan 4th 201220:01
    by swihart

    Joe! Thanks and right on. Rob — your post represents the most vile and horrible attitude possible about workplace safety. “…death and permanent injuries are an accepted part of the profession.” No, you just plain don’t get it, they’re NOT. Not allowed. Not legal to treat employees this wayt, not allowed to *let* employees accept death and permanent dismemberment. That’s a different planet. This woman was not a post-doc, got a Bachelor’s from a small liberal arts school. Not particularly experienced at what she was doing that anybody can say, much less prove, and sure she probably heard some cautions spoken at her, was told to read an MSDS maybe, but there is nothing like a reason to believe she had any idea what the correct procedures were or what horrible things could happen. And she certainly wasn’t prepared to deal with being on fire. She DIED because P. Harran doesn’t have to do what the safety people say, because he has tenure and tenured faculty are not fired for this kind of thing. In fact faculty who aren’t tenured aren’t fired for this kind of attitude, as long as they’re raking down the grant monies because *that’s* what’s important.

  • Jan 4th 201222:01
    by Michael Horowitz

    Regarding “Legally, this also hinges on the word “willfully”:
    CA Penal Code § 7 defines the word “willful” for the purpose of CA Labor Code 6325, under which Harran is charged: “The word “willfully,” when applied to the intent with which an act is done or omitted, implies simply a purpose or willingness to commit the act, or make the omission referred to. It does not require any intent to violate law, or to injure another, or to acquire any advantage.” This definition requires less proof than that required of Cal/OSHA to prove a citation should be classified as “Willful”. Cal/OSHA must prove the responsible party either had actual knowledge of the (8CCR)regulation’s requirements and the existence of the violation and took no action, or had constructive knowledge because the hazard was so obvious. UCLA’s “confusion” on this point demonstrates either a lack of knowledge about this distinction by its spokesperson or a public relations posture. From past experience my guess is the Los Angeles DA will settle for a misdemeanor conviction of LC 6323 rather than strive for a felony LC 6325 conviction. Full disclosure: I work for Cal/OSHA, but had nothing whatsoever to do with Cal/OSHA’s investigations and activities related to the accident.

  • Jan 4th 201223:01
    by Jyllian Kemsley

    @Michael Horowitz – thanks for weighing in! It’s helpful to hear about the distinction between “willful” in the penal code and what Cal/OSHA must consider. But did you mean LC 6423 rather than LC 6323? The charges are under LC 6425.

  • Jan 5th 201213:01
    by Daly

    Sheri Sangji death was not an accident. I am an expert in both Federal and California Court for worker environmental damage while handling chemicals. The lab coat is NOT your primary personal safety equipment (PPE) when using a chemical fume hood for worker protection, the fume hood is. The University is redirecting all the blame on lab coat since it makes Sheri partly to blame in her own death and conveniently covers up the fact that the lab chemical hood she was using did not conform to Laws, codes, or standards. This contributed to her death.
    The chemical fume hood Sheri Sangji was using did not conform to Federal and State OSHA Laws or Fire Code protecting a lab worker from vapor, splash, and explosion. The language in Title 8 (required by Federal Law) incorporated Federal OSHA 1990 language that includes protecting the lab worker from vapor, splash, and explosion. Tile 8 is long and winding and could be confusing to an IH since they may not be competent reading and understanding laws, codes, and standards. AIHA who certify the IH stated to congress that the IH is “limited” when reading laws, codes, or standards and the organization is biased against these same laws, codes, and standards. Of course this cannot be used as an excuse. If the IH cannot understand the subject then they must approach a licensed professional (PE) engineer in California for help. The PE has the singular responsible for public safety.
    California Fire Code is weak in the area of chemical fume hood vapor, splash, and explosion area but chapter 45 in NFPA is NOT. Chapter 45 is also an American ANSI conformance standard and must be included in the Universities CHP protecting lab workers (even in California)and sited by the licensed professional architect and engineer who specified the chemical fume hood (as well as the manufacturer who supplies the chemical fume hood). The UCLA IH even sited NFPA 45 fire code in a poor augment that UCLA was doing the right thing. A little know disturbing fact is California is the only State OSHA who denies medical evaluation to a lab worker exposed to hazardous chemicals as required by Federal OSHA Law. Perhaps California OSHA should also be added in the felony charges since this is intentional and contributed to the death of Sangji and also helps explain why California leads the nation in worker chemical exposure cases.
    The LA DA should also include charges against the licensed architect, engineer, and fume hood manufacturer who designed and supplied the lab chemical fume hood that Sangji was forced to use that lead to her death. The only reason the architect or worse the interior decorator that earns a commission designing the very mechanical chemical fume hood that is then built by carpenters that fails to meet Laws, codes, and standards was for money. A properly designed Law, code and standard compliant hood cost $300 move to build. Even the UCLA licensed professional staff architects and engineers should be held accountable and perhaps even included in the charges since by law, they should have brought the fact that the chemical fume hoods did not meet Laws, codes and standards to the state authorities. By law, no licensed professional can use ignorance as a form of protection.
    What is interesting is in another injured student researcher chemical fume hood explosion case, the fume hood manufacturer affidavit to the court stated that the very same style hood used by Sheri Sangji was not manufactured to NFPA 45 Fire Code requiring splash and explosion protection as the reason they should be excused from the lawsuit. It is the chemical fume hood manufactures position that they are not responsible to supply OSHA Law or Code compliant chemical fume hoods. It is their belief that all responsibility is on the licensed professional, PI, IH, employer and lab owner. Both the professor and the University of California are guilty as charged as well as others stated above.

  • Jan 5th 201213:01
    by Jyllian Kemsley

    @Daly – Can you explain what are the problems with the hood Sangji was using, what should have been different, and why you think a different hood design would have protected her better?

    There’s a photo of the hood at More Fines For UCLA.

  • Jan 5th 201219:01
    by Daly

    Jyllian-sorry in advance for the length of this post

    As a licensed engineer I have heavily researched the issue of worker safety in laboratories to ensure our designs meet OSHAs MAACT (max achievable) edict. Reaching out directly to the lab users themselves through the blog world is a new approach for us because this user safety message is just not getting out as we hoped. Hopefully the information we provide will be received in the constructive manner in which it is intended. I would also be doing you a disservice if I didn’t give you a thorough response to your question to help you independently research my statements. Before I launch into a dissertation on CFHs do you agree with the base statement that OSHA requires Owners to provide user protections in labs to chemical vapors, explosion/blast, and splash? The follow up to that question is “do you understand the previous statement about Cal-OSHA denying medical evaluation to lab workers exposed to hazardous chemicals?

    To get the information you’re looking for on Chemical Fume Hoods (CFHs) we have to be capable of reading OSHA and multiple ANSI standards for comprehension and be able to draw conclusions. The laws are no longer prescriptive (i.e. 2 cfm/sq-ft, 12 air changes, etc) but are performance based (prove you are keeping your people safe). Sadly, nearly all the licensed professionals designing labs long ago lost the ability or incentive to read for comprehension and defaulted to cookie cutter designs that increased their profits (not a popular conclusion in my engineering community). Most lab designers have no clue what it means to design and construct an OSHA approved laboratory or work station and as a user that should be a concern.

    The casework or furniture industry sells General Purpose fume hoods (pull out a CFH submittal and look for this labeling or call a CFH vender and see what they send you when you ask for data sheets). Most “unwashed” make the flawed “assumption” that as long as some arbitrary face velocity is achieved that the fume hood is universally “safe”. This neglects OSHAs 1/31/90 Final Ruling: Occupational Exposure to Hazardous Chemicals in labs where “…the final standard does not specify face velocities for fume hoods. OSHAs rationale for this was explained in the pre-amble….Moreover, it was felt that requiring specific face velocities was not consistent with the performance orientation of the standard”.

    Is there is a right face velocity? What does 50, 75, or 100 fpm do to protect a user from a projectile ejected during a CFH explosion at 2500 fpm (anything?). Obviously user safety in a CFH is much more involved than any simple face velocity.

    What does OSHA mean by performance orientation of the standard? Everyone should read the pre-amble on this Final Ruling to discover why OSHA issued it and the legal importance of a Final Ruling. Downright frightening especially since many of the concerns expressed about the anecdotal designs remain valid to this day and why PPM (personal monitoring) is required for specific substances.

    ANSI/AIHA-Z9.5-2003
    Sections 3.2.1 and 3.2.2 A conventional fume hood is a fume hood with or without bypass that has vertical (up/down) sashes. So a General Purpose CFH is a Conventional CFH.

    ANSI/NFPA-45-2004
    8.4.7 The CFH shall provide containment of the possible hazards and protection for personnel at all times when chemicals are present in the CFH. Explosion (blast) protection for all users is required (my words not italicized).

    8.2.3 CFHs shall not be relied up to provide explosion (blast) protection unless specifically designed to do so.

    C.5.4 Explosion-Resistant CFHs and Shields
    Laboratory personnel can be protected by specially designed explosion-resistant CFHs or shields for TNT equivalencies up to 1.0 pm (0.4 oz.). ….

    C.5.4.1 Conventional CFHs are not designed to provide explosion protection

    C.5.4.2 When explosion resistant CFHs or shields are used, they should be designed, located, supported, and anchored to do the following:
    1. withstand the effects of the explosion
    2. vent over pressures, injurious substances, flames, and heat to a safe location
    3. Contain missiles and fragments
    4. prevent the formation of secondary missiles caused by the failure of CFH or shield components.

    C.5.4.5 When transparent shields are necessary for viewing purposes, the most common materials used are safety glass, wire reinforced glass, and acrylic or polycarbonate plastic. Each of these materials, although provides some missile penetration resistance, has a distinct failure mode.

    Glass shields tend to fragment into shards and to spall away on the side away from the explosion. Plastics tend to fail by cracking and breaking into distinct pieces. Also, plastics can lose strength with age, exposure to reactants, and mechanical action.

    Glass panels (horizontal sashes)…. have been suggested as an improved shield design. The glass blunts the sharp missiles, and the polycarbonate contains any glass shards and provides additional resistance to impulse load.

    Summary
    To achieve an explosion-blast resistant CFH design requires either surface mounted safety shields OR horizontal sash panels be provided. NFPA-45 above states safety shields have common failure modes and can become secondary missiles. During a previous worker injury lawsuit we contacted a number of shield manufacturers and learned explosion resistant safety shields were taken off the market and are no longer commercially available (but SEFA and NFPA still refer to them as commercially viable. Why? Good question? That leaves horizontal sashes as the only commercially available explosion/blast control barrier.

    When we review this with lab designers I’m often told I’m making a mountain out of a molehill (and its easier to kill the messenger when the message is unpalatable). I have two answers that I give to clarify the importance of this section and the liability owners of General Purpose/Conventional CFH don’t know they have:

    1. ANSI/NFPA-45-2004.C.4.3
    The likelihood of an explosion is estimated by considering such factors as the properties of the reactants, history of the reaction based on literature search and so forth, possible intermediates and reaction products; pressure, volume, stored energy, design integrity, and safety factors of reaction vessels; pressure relief provisions, in the case of pressure vessels; and explosive limits, quantities, oxygen enrichment, and so forth, of flammable gases or vapors. The term “likelihood”, rather than “probability”, is used to describe an estimated event frequency based on experience, knowledge, or intuitive reasoning, rather than on statistical data. In general there will be insufficient data to develop mathematical probabilities.

    Could the intent of this section be any clearer and the profession of the authors any more obvious? For the lab design engineer or architect this section eliminates the “we didn’t know the chemistry” or “we didn’t know solvents were burned and were used in every fume hood” defense. For the lab manager, PI, EHS, and everyone else this tells everyone there is a likelihood of a fire/explosion (blast) in any CFH over the life of the equipment. So if you read ANSI/NFPA-45 and do some digging you’ll come the conclusion that every CFH must be an explosion/blast resistant work station and each CFH must be equipped with properly designed horizontal sashes.

    2. A student was badly damaged at a Midwestern college several years ago while using a Conventional CFH for a highly reactive experiment. The plaintiff sued the college, professor, university architect/engineer, installing contractor, CFH manufacturer, etc, etc. The CFH manufacturers’ position under deposition was the Owner purchased Conventional CFHs that were not suitable for the experiment and the case against them was dismissed. Yet the judge allowed the case against everyone else to continue…including allowing the college employees to be sued personally out from under the legal umbrella of the college (now case law). Why wasn’t every IH, PI, and Lab Manager in the United States given copies of that ruling? Would it surprise you to learn that no architects have ever heard of this and even that sit through our classes on designing compliant labs still specify Conventional Fume Hoods if that is what the customer wants. This industry is stuck on stupid and unfortunately it takes a tragedy like Ms Sanji’s to get safety on the agenda.

    Having seen the CFH UCLA did NOT provide an explosion-resistant CFH therefore solvents and reactive chemicals should not have been allowed in that enclosure. Had they provided a CFH with horizontal sashes then workers could be trained to open the sliding (left/right) panels, load the chemicals and apparatus, close the sashes suitable for them ergonomically, and reach around the sashes to start the experiment. In this manner the worker always has a full body shield between them and the explosion.

  • Jan 5th 201220:01
    by Daly

    I took alot of time to italicize what is from OSHA or ANSI and bold face what is the conclusion we reached…sadly all that was lost. not sure why

    hope this helps.

  • Jan 5th 201220:01
    by Jyllian Kemsley

    @Daly – Thank you for such a detailed response. Basically you’re saying that the only hood that meets regulations is one with horizontal panels that move side-to-side?

    How much of a difference would a hood like that have made if Sangji was reaching around the panel? Her hands and arms still would have been exposed, and her shirt still could have ignited, especially if she was wearing long sleeves. Correct?

    I’m sorry that the formatting on your comment was lost–I know how frustrating that can be. If you have it saved in another format, feel free to send it to me and I’ll see if I can edit the comment to put it in the shape that you wanted. j_kemsley@acs.org

  • Jan 6th 201210:01
    by Daly

    The difference could have been significant. Using the horizontal panels as safety shields does leave the arms/hands exposed but protects the core/center of the body from groin to head (in an ergonomically correct manner–that can’t be ignored either). One could fairly easily argue that were a persons sleeves on fire they have a better odds of extinguishing a fire than if her core body was on fire. Remember, fires burn up so a fireball impacting your stomach/chest area would rapidly move up towards the neck and head (the heat would be felt immediately). One could also speculate whether a fire on the sleeves would move up the arms at all (not to diminish any fire on your body). Of course if the substance being used is so volatile then perhaps a glove box rather than a CFH should be the enclosure of choice.

    A prime importance is the shields are there not only to deflect the energy of the fire ball, but obviously deflect any debris that could be ejected from said fume hood. Often cylinders rupturing will jettison materials at extreme speeds and if this material impacts the users that can be catastrophic.

    To those that hate horizontal windows—sorry nothing else better is available and no sash height (regardless of how low) is an OSHA approved explosion/blast protection. Smart PI’s would research the fact that new CFH have the sashes hung on rollers and you can reach around the sash panel, pick up an object, and walk it down the hood….friction slide windows should never be used.

    This also eliminates the illconceived sash height management approach, as there has never been any “safe” sash height. 18″ is used by many but ergonomic studies show the height that accommodates 95% of all workers is 25.5″. Using horizontal panels gives everyone up to 28″ when the windows are slid out of your ways.

    The last thing you need to do is to make sure your CFH is provided with panels of acceptable width…remember the CFH manufacturers and vendors are largely clueless and most simply don’t care. what good does it do you to be given a CFH with 28″ wide horizontal panels? Hint—read Prudent Practices and AIHA-Z9.5-2003 for the recommended Max and Min horizontal sash widths. Many manufacturers can offer virtually any sized panel hung on roller bearings—-you the PIs and Owners (like the above explosion/blast) have to demand it and fight to get it.

  • Jan 10th 201215:01
    by PAM

    There are some many views that one could take on this issue. I am passionate about safety and the protection of all workers. As a person who is responsible for ensuring that my college (State College) is in compliance to all Federal, State and local regulations, I most often feel like the long ranger fighting a losing battle. It’s possible that these two individual are being used as scapegoats, when the bigger problem is often due to the lack of Senior Management support and/or enforcement power in ensuring that workers have what they need to be safe as well as working safely.
    My heart goes out to all involved, including the two individuals who may have to spend time in prison!

  • Jan 11th 201201:01
    by camelot

    check Harran’s safety record at his previous university. there is a pattern!!

  • [...] been hiding under a rock, you have heard of the unfortunate circumstances that Dr. Patrick Harran has found himself in. I have to say that this really is an unfortunate situation. There are so many things that one [...]

  • [...] have been reading the comments to Jyllian Kemsley’s round up of the Harran situation and find the comments to be quite fascinating. In particular is [...]

  • Mar 3rd 201201:03
    by Jerry - Chainsaws for sale

    Jyllian,criminal responsibility is absurd…:(

  • May 4th 201214:05
    by Thinker

    @Daly: I will have to question your expertise in the subject. Claiming that a horizontal sash would have saved her life or any chemists life from a probable accident only shows to me that you know nothing about research. Working with pyrophoric chemicals requires free movement and accuracy. Having a sash right in front of you would only hinder your movements and hence increase the risk for an accident. Also a fume hood cannot be used as a substitute for PPE but as an additional measure. You show cased the OSHA and ANSI standards and rules well so now it’s time you went to read some chemistry and maybe visit a research lab and find out how science is done.

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