U Hawaii story now has photos
Apr22

U Hawaii story now has photos

Just a quick FYI to Safety Zone readers to note that my U Hawaii story from earlier this week, "Spark from pressure gauge caused University of Hawaii explosion, fire department says," now has photos provided by the Honolulu Fire Department.

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Spark from pressure gauge caused University of Hawaii explosion
Apr20

Spark from pressure gauge caused University of Hawaii explosion

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: U Hawaii story with recording of press briefing - Investigation continues into lab explosion at UH Chemjobber - More details on the UH-Manoa incident: explosion probably due to sparking pressure gauge KHON - 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) Science - University of Hawaii lab explosion caused by inappropriate gauge Chemistry World - Hawaii lab explosion linked to safety failings Curiosity Science - Dear chemists: Please be...

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Researcher loses an arm from lab explosion at the University of Hawaii
Mar22

Researcher loses an arm from lab explosion at the University of Hawaii

My story at C&EN: Explosion at the University of Hawaii seriously injures researcher: A 29-year-old researcher was seriously injured in a lab explosion at the University of Hawaii, Mānoa, on March 16. The researcher is Thea Ekins-Coward, and she lost an arm and suffered other injuries, according to local media reports. When C&EN inquired about her condition on March 20, Queen’s Medical Center, the facility where she is hospitalized, declined to release any information. Ekins-Coward is listed as a postdoctoral researcher in the alternative fuels group at the Hawaii Natural Energy Institute (HNEI), which is a research unit within the university. The university has not confirmed that Ekins-Coward was the person injured. The lab in which the explosion happened was operated by HNEI and focuses on renewable energy and degradable bioplastics, said Brian Taylor, dean of the School of Ocean & Earth Science & Technology, during a March 17 news conference. At the time of the incident, the researcher who was injured was combining hydrogen, carbon dioxide, and oxygen gases from high-pressure cylinders into a lower pressure container. The mixture was to be used as a feedstock to grow cells. “Since 2008, when the project began, the process has been used almost daily and without incident,” Taylor said. ... Thea Ekins-Coward's spouse appears to be Amy Ekins-Coward, who posted on LinkedIn in January: My life doesn't look how I imagined: Diary of a trailing spouse (part seven). It illustrates how vulnerable postdocs and their families can be: I know that to the outside looking in, moving to Hawaii is no hardship. But feeling like you have no control over your own life, like you've built no nest egg, can be no small burden. Not knowing whether come July we'll be here, or heading home, or trying to find something else, can be draining – even depressing. Who knows whether all those hopes listed above will all come to fruition, but at least having those in mind means that when I look in the mirror and think "god that hair" or envy someone else's stability, shiny new car, shiny new dog, I can keep on keeping on that little bit...

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Update on death at Tsinghua University
Jan07

Update on death at Tsinghua University

From my story in Monday's issue of C&EN: “We are deeply saddened by the accident and loss of a good postdoc scientist,” Tsinghua chemistry department chair Xun Wang told C&EN. “According to the investigation of the government police department as well as our own investigation, the tragedy was caused by the accidental explosion of a hydrogen gas cylinder,” Wang said. As of Dec. 30, the blast’s cause was unclear. According to a post by the Beijing Administration of Work Safety, a Beijing vice or deputy mayor led some sort of safety inspection at Beijing University of Chemical Technology on Dec. 30. From the google translation of the post: Wang Ning, deputy mayor stressed that one should draw profound Tsinghua University "12.18" explosion lessons, school leadership to further enhance the understanding of the management of dangerous chemicals laboratory. Colleges and universities are the place to nurture talent, but also to pay attention to people's safety, especially teaching laboratories and research laboratories using hazardous chemicals, storage security is a top priority. Second, the schools to organize the pre-holiday special inspection responsibility to the people, the use of hazardous chemical storage to conduct a comprehensive clean-up, focus on examination of system implementation, test personnel training, check targeted contingency plans and emergency response, security. Third, the City Board of Education in accordance with the requirements of the Ministry of Education on College lab safety management, strengthen safety supervision system in Universities, in close coordination with safety supervision, public security departments, from management mechanism, team building, development of the system, rating, personnel training and risk analysis, study and formulate targeted measures; summing up and promoting some good experience and practice, work together to promote the city's university laboratory safety management of hazardous chemicals, and strive accident does not occur. So 1) colleges and universities need to pay attention to people's safety, especially in teaching and research labs; 2) there will be lab clean-ups and inspections, and 3) education authorities are going to pay closer attention to safety. My question: Will any of the government or university responses lead to a culture that fosters working safely as opposed to a culture of compliance? h/t to C&EN's Jean-François Tremblay for the Beijing Administration of Work Safety...

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Postdoctoral researcher killed in explosion at Tsinghua University
Dec21

Postdoctoral researcher killed in explosion at Tsinghua University

A chemistry postdoctoral researcher was killed in some sort of explosion or fire at Tsinghua University on Friday, according to a post by the university on the microblogging site Weibo. If other media reports are correct, the deceased postdoc is Xiangjian Meng, and he joined the university in 2014 after many years at the Shanghai Institute of Technical Physics of the Chinese Academy of Sciences completing his Ph.D. at Nanyang Technology University in Singapore. The university has not released any details about the incident. A couple of early news reports mentioned tert-butyllithium as a possible culprit and another referenced an "organic catalysis experiment." Chinese media reports on Sunday pointed to hydrogen as the culprit, so perhaps it was a hydrogenation reaction? Various stories (translations courtesy of Google): Nature, Dec. 18 - Postdoc dies in lab fire at Tsinghua University Daily Mail, Dec. 18 - Terrifying moment thick smoke billows out of university chemical lab as toxic explosion killed postdoctoral researcher in China Shanghai Daily, Dec. 18 - Postdoctoral researcher killed in lab blast at Tsinghua University on.cc, Dec. 18 - Tsinghua University postdoctoral laboratory explosion and fire killed Staff Xinhuanet, Dec. 19 - Tsinghua University lab explosion occurs in hydrogen experiment Shanghaiist, Dec. 19 - Tsinghua University explosion kills researcher as lab experiment goes wrong ScienceNet, Dec. 19 - Tsinghua University postdoctoral laboratory fire killed CRI, Dec. 19 - Tsinghua University Lab Explosion Occurs in Hydrogen Experiment China Daily, Dec. 19 - Department of Tsinghua University postdoctoral do chemistry experiments with hydrogen explosion and Student killed in chemistry lab blast Asia One, Dec. 20 - China uni student killed in chemistry lab blast Ecns.cn, Dec. 20 - Tsinghua University lab explosion occurs in hydrogen experiment China News, Dec. 20 - Tsinghua University chemistry lab explosion track: Postdoctoral do experiments with hydrogen gas explosion Chengdu Business Daily, Dec. 20 - Tsinghua University chemistry laboratory building explosion killed a postdoctoral Guizhou Daily, Dec. 20 - Department of Chemistry, Tsinghua University laboratory explosion killed 32-year-old postdoctoral spot cnBeta, Dec. 21 - Tsinghua postdoctoral were killed: explosives non-tertiary-butyl lithium - Google's translation is pretty mangled, but seems to say that Meng's family posted on Weibo denying that tert-butyllithium was involved but giving no other incident information (this looks like it might be the Weibo page) China Daily, Dec. 21 - Ministry of Education reminds education departments of safety And a thread on reddit chemistry: Wow. Fire/Explosion leads to PostDoc death at Tsinghua University Update: I have heard from a reader that there were two people named Xiangjian Meng at Tsinghua. The deceased Meng was a postdoc who had done his Ph.D. work at...

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