A piece in Slate discusses why academic labs are so much more dangerous than industry ones. Slate has a laundry list of lab accidents: a lab technician who died of burns after transferring T-butyl lithium, a professor electrocuted after plugging in a light with an ungrounded plug, a postdoc injured in an explosion, two technicians exposed to botulinum toxin, and more. The difference between safety in academia and industry, Slate says, is occupational safety and health don't apply to many people working in academic labs if they are paid by outside funding agencies and that safety violations take no toll on a PI's career, as it would in industry. "University administrators from the provost on down must make safety a serious concern and a requirement for career advancement and hiring, and tenure and promotion committees must hold faculty members responsible for seeing that everyone in their labs has the training, skills, and equipment needed to work safely," writes Beryl Lieff Benderly.
Danger in the Lab
May 22, 2009