Web Date: October 10, 2016
University of Hawaii fine lowered 40% for lab explosion
The University of Hawaii last week settled its case with the Hawaii Occupational Safety & Health Division (HIOSH) regarding a laboratory explosion in March. The settlement reduces the number of violations from 15 to nine and the fine from $115,500 to $69,300.
Postdoctoral researcher Thea Ekins-Coward, who worked on the university’s Manoa campus for the Hawaii Natural Energy Institute, lost one of her arms in the explosion. When the blast occurred, she was preparing a gas mixture of 55% hydrogen, 38% oxygen, and 7% carbon dioxide to feed to bacteria to produce biofuels and bioplastics. An electrostatic discharge likely ignited the mixture, according to an investigation report issued in July by the University of California Center for Laboratory Safety.
The settlement agreement combines similar violations, including two regarding laboratory exits and, separately, four centering on an inadequate chemical hygiene plan. The reduction in overall number of violations, which were assessed the maximum state penalty of $7,700 each, resulted in the reduced fine. The agreement also revised some wording in the violation descriptions.
“The penalty reduction is in consideration of the employer’s prompt abatement of the cited hazards and efforts to prevent their recurrence,” the settlement agreement says.
“The university is working diligently to address the remaining violations, further strengthen the culture of safety, and foster an environment where hazard recognition and risk assessment are the standard of care for all activities,” the university says in a statement.
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