Today is the 10th anniversary of Sheharbano (Sheri) Sangji’s death from injuries sustained in a laboratory fire at the University of California, Los Angeles. From C&EN:
Her death pushed some chemists to try to improve academic lab safety culture to prevent similar accidents at their own institutions and beyond. C&EN asked scientists from all corners of the chemistry community to describe their efforts. Read on for their strategies, including incorporating safety into chemistry education, improving training, and developing resources to help people work in a safer manner.
Yet large-scale, systemic change remains elusive, as demonstrated by grievous incidents in the decade since Sangji’s death. Postdoctoral researcher Meng Xiangjian died in a hydrogen explosion at Tsinghua University in 2015. Graduate student Preston Brown lost three fingers and damaged his eyes in a nickel hydrazine perchlorate explosion at Texas Tech University in 2010. And postdoc Thea Ekins-Coward lost one of her arms in a hydrogen-oxygen gas mixture explosion at the University of Hawaii at Manoa in 2016.
Adding to that list, in early December one researcher was killed and three others were injured in what seems to have been an explosion of a hydrogen-oxygen gas mixture at the Indian Institute of Science’s Laboratory for Hypersonic and Shock Wave Research. A few weeks later, three students died in an explosion involving sewage treatment experiments at Beijing Jiaotong University, according to local news reports.
To learn more about how to improve laboratory safety culture, particularly in academic research labs, read C&EN’s package.