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Estimate: Academic Labs 11 Times More Dangerous Than Industrial Counterparts 153

Posted by samzenpus
from the will-I-live-to-take-the-test? dept.
Jim_Austin writes "Academic science labs are generally far less safe than labs in industry; one estimate says that people working in academic labs are 11x more likely to be hurt than their industrial counterparts. A group of grad students and postdocs in Minnesota decided to address the issue head-on. With encouragement and funding from DOW, and some leadership from their department chairs, they're in the process of totally remaking their departments' safety cultures."
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Estimate: Academic Labs 11 Times More Dangerous Than Industrial Counterparts

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  • by physicsphairy (720718) on Friday March 07, 2014 @08:21AM (#46426991) Homepage

    IMHO the issue is that academia is not really a hierarchy like in industry. At a big school the freshman labs will be plenty paranoid about safety because of legal liabilities, but once you're talking about professors' private research projects, it's more like a hobbyist working in their basement, and in that situation we're all inclined to become comfortable and take shortcuts. Part of it, also, is the assumption that anyone with a degree comes packaged with knowledge of proper lab technique. What you will find is that, especially when you are talking students and Ph.D.s from different countries, they were trained differently. We have a lot of Russians who seem particularly cavalier. (honestly, if Chernobyl had't already happened, I might be expecting it).

  • by FatLittleMonkey (1341387) on Friday March 07, 2014 @09:09AM (#46427143)

    And if you don't have sloppy health and safety standards in your lab, how can you accidentally discover new phenomena.

    If Fleming maintained correct use of an autoclave... If Spencer hadn't walked in front of that unshielded magnetron... If Goodyear had a proper hood over his stove... If the Coca-Cola guy had properly labelled his supplies... If Becquerel properly stored his equipment and samples... If Hoffman (LSD) and Schlatter (Aspartame) had worn gloves or just hadn't licked their fingers after working with chemicals...

    [If I hadn't regurgitated the first result of typing "accidental di"]

  • by usuallylost (2468686) on Friday March 07, 2014 @09:22AM (#46427203)

    Are you sure it is just the students?

    One of my professors in college told me that when he was a graduate student one of his professors got arrested. The guy and a group of his grad students had been cooking up significant amounts of drugs in one of the schools labs after hours. They were using them to throw big drug parties. According to my professor the primary goal of the whole operation was to help them pickup members of a certain sorority that liked to attend the parties. One of the students involved got arrested which lead back to the professor and brought the whole thing down.

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