Texas Tech Receives Favorable Report from Chemical Safety Board
The status of the investigation into a 2010 incident at the Chemistry Building has been changed to “Open-Acceptable Response.”
Written by Sally Logue Post
The status of the investigation into the 2010 incident at the Texas Tech University Chemistry Building that injured a graduate student has been changed to “Open-Acceptable Response” by the U.S. Chemical Safety Board (CSB).
The status change came in a letter from the CSB. In the letter, Rafael Moure-Eraso, chairperson of the U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board, informs Texas Tech officials that “…the status change reflects the Board’s determination that TTU has planned and initiated actions that appear consistent with the intent of the recommendations. We appreciate that TTU’s newly established Institutional Laboratory Safety Committee is working to both revise the university’s chemical hygiene plan and to develop an incident and near-miss reporting system.
Please continue to keep us abreast of TTU’s efforts to implement the CSB’s recommendations. We look forward to seeing TTU’s revised CHP and incident and near-miss reporting system.”
On Jan. 7, 2010, an accident in a laboratory in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry left a graduate student seriously injured. The student was working with energetic materials in greater quantities than was prudent. He also was working outside of a hood, without a blast shield and without personal protective wear.
The CSB investigated the incident and in October 2011 issued a report with two recommendations:
- Revise and expand the university chemical hygiene plan (CHP) to ensure that physical safety hazards are addressed and controlled, and develop a verification program that ensures that the safety provisions of the CHP are communicated, followed and enforced at all levels within the university.
- 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. Ensure that the reporting system has a single point of authority with the responsibility of ensuring that remedial actions are implemented in a timely manner.
“The CSB’s change in our status is good news, but we still have a long way to go,” said Taylor Eighmy, senior vice president for research. “The CSB’s investigation is not closed. It remains open, but the CSB is signaling that we are making good progress in meeting their recommendations.”
In addition to the CSB’s recommendations, Texas Tech President Guy Bailey imposed additional recommendations:
- Adapt elements of physical risk into our 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 CSB 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 senior vice president for research to make laboratory safety an element of annual evaluations (e.g., college, department, faculty).
- Others to be determined.
“Texas Tech is making good progress on these recommendations,” said Alice Young, associate vice president for research/research integrity. “In the aftermath of the incident, the university made it a stated goal that we become an exemplar in our campus climate and culture around laboratory and studio safety. Our May 2012 report to the CSB outlined multiple initiatives that many groups, including the new Institutional Laboratory Safety Committee, departments, and the Faculty Senate, will continue working on in the coming year.”
The Office of the Vice President for Research has created a website that details the university’s response and ongoing action in the wake of the CSB’s investigation.
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