237818 Impact of laboratory accidents on chemical management policies at academic institutions

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Miriam Weil, MPH, ScD , School of Health and Environment, Work Environment Department, University of Massachusetts, Lowell, Lowell, MA

Accidents in academic laboratories can be tragic in terms of loss of life and devastating in terms of damage to the university facilities. Several high profile accidents took place within 2010 which has brought attention to the issues of laboratory safety. This investigation will examine root causes of three academic laboratory accidents and the changes that came about at the universities as a result of the accidents. Regulatory structures supposed to oversee university laboratories will be examined and their precautionary effectiveness assessed.

Too often, university responses to lab accidents involve changes in management and training with less attention to the root causes of the incident. I propose a typology of responses and demonstrate how responses rank in terms of ameliorative to fundamental changes and why root cause changes are so difficult to achieve.

Methodology I will investigate three academic institutions where laboratory accidents have occurred using interviews with stakeholders who have key roles in minimizing laboratory risks. Questions will be in the following categories: A. Accident causes B. Effectiveness of existing regulations mandating safe practices in university laboratories C. Changes made in laboratory practices because of accidents D. Policy changes needed to mandate safe practices in university laboratories Results Determine whether changes made by the institutions are sufficient to prevent future accidents, why more fundamental changes are avoided and address what makes changes lasting and sustainable. Conclusions Conventional responses to laboratory accidents often involve inadequate chemical management, weak lab safety culture and regulatory inadequacy.

Learning Areas:
Occupational health and safety

Learning Objectives:
Analyze and compare the root causes of three academic laboratory accidents. Evaluate the sustainability and effectiveness of changes made because of the accidents. Evaluate the precautionary ability of existing regulations and their impact on university laboratories.

Keywords: Hazards, Safety in Labs

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: This research is part of my doctoral dissertation at UMASS Lowell.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.