Saturday, September 3, 2011

Follow Up To Yale Student's Death In Lab: OSHA Findings

On a previous School Preparedness Blog entry in April 2011, I posted information about student Michele Dufault's death from strangulation from a lab machine (a lathe) during late night work by herself in a Yale lab. The US Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recently completed its investigation. Yale University was not fined for this accidental student death by OSHA since it (OSHA) only has jurisdiction over worker safety, not student safety. OSHA released its finding from its review of the student's fatal accident. A synopsis of the OSHA finding are as follows:
  • The lathe was built in 1962 which had no emergency stop button or safety guard on its lead screw (chuck) which the graduating senior's long hair was caught.
  • No warning signs or safety rules posted in the laboratory's machine shop.
  • The student who was killed should have been monitored by a second person.
  • Her hair was not pulled back which contributed to her accidental death.
  • The university failed to monitor the student's work and adherence to safety regulations which she was briefed upon.

Yale University's response to the accident / OSHA assessment: Stated it provided the student extensive machine tool training and personal protective equipment (PPE) and student's were instructed not to use machinery without anyone else present. Yale University states "...unfortunately, OSHAs assessment contains a number of significant inaccuracies." Since the accident, Yale stepped up its safety training program and limited the access to the machine shop to certain hours where monitors are present.

Points for Consideration:
  • As stated in our past related blog, a TWO PERSON RULE should always be in place when machine are used especially by students. Moving parts, electricity, fuel, and fumes can all individually or collectively injure and kill people so be careful.
  • Often times when we inherit equipment or renuvate facilities, we are pleased to economize or are satisfied we have equipment which still works which is good. However, educational leadership always has to ASSESS the HAZARDS that may occur or exist because something may not be up to present day safety codes and regulations.
  • Your school can have the greatest safety policies, and education and training program; but if your school does not ENFORCE safety through SUPERVISION then human mistakes creep into the occassion as will accidents and possibly death. As we say in the military when it comes to leadership, "SUPERVISION is the most important part of leading others."
    • Policies without supervised enforcement hold little weight in the real world.
  • Investigations and lawsuits due to liability will follow soon after, this is where PREVENTION should always be the focus.
  • It is always better for a educational institution to catch a safety violater and counsel or fine them prior to an accident vice having the institution having to defend why a student was accidentally killed with their equipment on your school's grounds.
  • For accidents to occur their is a link between a number of factors (natural and manmade) that link together and form a consequence chain which lead to injuries and sometimes even death.
Part of teaching our students and reminding our educators to be successful in life is to remain SAFE and SECURE, these are enduring Life skills.

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