Report on U Hawaii explosion delayed until late May
Apr28

Report on U Hawaii explosion delayed until late May

From the University of Hawaii regarding the March explosion that caused a postdoctoral researcher to lose one of her arms. UH retained the University of California Center for Laboratory Safety to investigate the incident, and that report was expected this week. The independent investigation into the March 16, 2016 explosion in a University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa laboratory is now expected to be complete in mid to late May. It was initially expected to finish by the end of April. The University of California Center for Laboratory Safety, retained by UH to conduct the investigation, was unable to send materials involved in the explosion for testing until the Hawaiʻi State Occupational Safety and Health Division (HIOSH), the government agency investigating the accident, completed its review of the accident scene. HIOSH released the materials and scene to UH late last week. ... In its preliminary investigation, the UC Center for Laboratory Safety, considered a national leader in laboratory safety, determined that the explosion was an isolated incident and not the result of a systemic...

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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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UC Center for Laboratory Safety is investigating U Hawaii explosion
Apr12

UC Center for Laboratory Safety is investigating U Hawaii explosion

The University of Hawaii, Manoa, announced last week that the University of California Center for Laboratory Safety is investigating the March 16 explosion that caused UH postdoc Thea Ekins-Coward to lose an arm. "The UC Laboratory Safety Team was on the Manoa campus the week of March 28 and the investigation is expected to be complete by the end of April," the UH announcement said. "All preliminary indications are that the accident was an isolated incident and not the result of a systemic problem at Mānoa or intentional wrongdoing," said UH Manoa Chancellor Robert Bley-Vroman in the statement. The UC Center for Laboratory Safety was established at UC Los Angeles in 2011, two years after UCLA researcher Sheharbano (Sheri) Sangji died from injuries sustained in a laboratory fire. The goals of the center are to support research, communication, and training programs in lab safety, according to its website. The UH investigation is the first one that the center has conducted, confirmed Craig Merlic, executive director of the center and an associate professor of chemistry and biochemistry at UCLA. The investigation team members are: Merlic Imke Schroeder, research project manager of the UC Center for Laboratory Safety and adjunct associate professor of microbiology, immunology and molecular genetics at UCLA Kenneth Smith, board member of the UC Center for Laboratory Safety and executive director of environment, health and safety at the UC Office of the President Eugene Ngai, president of Chemically Speaking, a specialty gas consulting company The center "has extensive experience in laboratory safety and the investigating team will give the University of Hawaii advice on their safety programs related to this incident in addition to determining the root cause of the incident," Merlic told C&EN. "We spent three days at the University of Hawaii and are following up on several lines of investigation." UH spokesman Dan Meisenzahl declined to say how much UH is paying for the investigation. The Hawaii Occupational Safety & Health Division is also investigating the incident and Ekins-Coward is receiving workers’ compensation benefits, C&EN reported two weeks ago. Other coverage: Chemjobber - The Institution speaks for itself and investigates itself Science - Two investigations underway into University of Hawaii lab...

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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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