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Texas Tech Releases Statements Regarding Recent Explosions in Chemistry and Biochemistry Labs

Eighmy - depts.ttu.edu

Texas Tech has released statements regarding explosions in their Chemistry and Biochemistry labs over the past two years.

The most recent explosion, which occurred Friday, October 14th of this year, took place in an unattended laboratory and no one was injured.

According to the University, the explosion occurred in a working laboratory hood, the building was evacuated, and the Lubbock Fire Department and its hazmat team responded, and cleaned up acid which had been sprayed across the floor of the lab as a result of the explosion. The building was reopened to faculty and students about two hours after the incident.

Texas Tech’s Office of Environmental Health and Safety, as well as outside experts, are investigating the accident, and the laboratories involved in the projects where the explosion took place have been locked down.

Tech says that the laboratory was being used by employees of an organic chemical production company, which has a contractual research relationship with a faculty member in the department.

Another explosion in the same department occurred on January 7th, 2010, resulting in the injury of a doctoral student.

The U.S. Chemical Safety Board has conducted an investigation into the incident, and gave their report via a webinar Wednesday.

The CSB’s report recommends that Texas Tech should “Revise and expand the university chemical hygiene plan to ensure that physical and safety hazards are addressed and controlled.”

They also found that Tech should “Develop and implement an incident and near-miss reporting system that can be used as an educational resource for researchers, a basis for continuous safety system improvement, and a metric for the university to assess its safety progress.”

In addition to the CSB recommendations, Texas Tech has announced that they will implement self-imposed recommendations as well, which includes:

  • Adapting elements of physical risk into the chemical hygiene plan.
  • Require Texas Tech University to become an exemplary institution around the culture of safety.
  • Require the university to report annually to the U.S. Chemical Safety Board about progress made toward improving the culture of laboratory safety.
  • Establish a TTU Faculty Chemical Safety Committee to help firmly establish the culture of laboratory safety.
  • Acquire an online chemical inventory system.
  • Require the provost and vice president for research to make laboratory safety an element of annual evaluations.

Taylor Eighmy, vice president for research at Texas Tech said “While progress has been made, this second accident just further reinforces the importance of changing the culture of laboratory safety at the university. We have a lot of work to still do.”

The graduate student that was injured in the January 2010 explosion has since recovered and completed his doctorate.

More information on the CSB’s findings is available at www.csbresponse.ttu.edu.

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