Lab Safety Awareness

By Bob Colichio

On December 23, 2008, Sheharbano (Sheri) Sangji was performing a fairly common procedure with a pyrophoric material in a UCLA Chemistry lab when some accidentally spilled onto her polyester sweater and ignited. Over 40% of her body was burned and she died 19 days later.

A subsequent investigation by California Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) lead to citations and fines for inadequate training, improper use of protective clothing, failure to correct safety violations noted on the October, 2008 inspection performed by UCLA’s EHS Office, and non-existent records of training on the specific procedure being performed. Currently, criminal and civil charges are being considered against the PI for wrongful death.

Labs are extremely diverse spaces that may contain many different types of potentially hazardous materials or equipment. Numerous other incidents have occurred recently that have not received as much attention as the UCLA incident, but, should be reminders as to what can happen in our labs and what we can do to prevent it or minimize the possibility of it happening.

Listed below is a sampling of publicized events and links to the official reports: All descriptions are links and can be accessed by using Control + Click to follow link.


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Last Modified: January 14, 2010
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