Texas Tech University and other institutions of higher education throughout the state of Texas do important research work. In many cases, colleges rely on graduate and post-doc students to conduct experiments to enhance scientific exploration while also providing students with educational opportunities to prepare them for future careers. Even high school students are frequently asked to do hands-on lab work to help prepare them for future scientific learning.
Unfortunately, according to a recent article in Scientific America, a safety expert writing for the Journal of Chemical Health and Safety contends “most academic laboratories are unsafe venues for work or study.” Because promotions committees and organizations that provide funding often do not look at the safety background of academic labs, there may be fewer safeguards to ensure safety in high school and college laboratories as compared with lab settings in private industries. A lax approach to safety precautions coming from the top down may be putting students at significant risk.
When student accidents occur in a lab setting, Springfield, MO personal injury attorneys at Tolbert Beadle & Musgrave LLC can help victims or their family members understand their legal rights. The school may be held accountable for student injuries and may be required to compensate victims or their families for losses that student accident cause.
Lab Injuries Endanger Students
One deadly lab accident occurred at the University of California when a 23-year-old technician was working with a highly-flammable liquid called t-butyl lithium. If exposed to air, the liquid could catch fire. Some of the liquid, unfortunately, leaked out as the student was conducting her experiment. She had no lab coat on at the time and the synthetic fibers of her sweatshirt caught fire. Despite efforts by other postdocs in the lab to help her, she was not able to get to the nearby shower. Emergency personnel arrived too late to prevent severe burns, and the student spent 18 days in a burn unit before she died of her injuries.
When OSHA visited the lab after the incident, life-threatening safety violations were identified. Evidence also came to light that similar non-fatal incidents had occurred in the past and were not reported.
Even when lab accidents are reported, there is no separate category that isolates statistics on injuries in high school or college lab settings. Unfortunately, this means it is hard to determine just how many young students are at risk.
Scientific American did report that past incidents have occurred at the University of Chicago, at Dartmouth College and at Texas Tech, all of which have caused serious injuries or fatalities.
Tracking statistics on lab injuries among students would be a good first step to identifying the dangers and beginning to solve the problem. Ultimately, however, academic institutions and professors or teachers must make the commitment to always put student safety first. Student labs should be run with the same focus and attention to reducing injuries as any professional lab and schools need to be held accountable.
Missouri accident victims should contact the offices of Tolbert Beadle & Musgrave LLC at 1-800-887-4030 or visit http://www.tbmlaw.com.