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Scientists frequently injured on the job in lab accidents

A study on laboratory safety was recently conducted on behalf of the Center for Lab Safety at the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA). The university elected to conduct this study in light of recent accidents in the science department. Considering the number of lab workers who have been injured on the job in recent years, it seems that some changes may need to be made in safety procedures at UCLA.

The lab workers who participated in the survey reported a number of minor injuries ranging from monkey scratches to dangerous chemical fume inhalation. However, at least 30 percent of the students who participated in the study claimed that they had seen at least one major injury. Many students claimed that they had accidents in the lab that they never reported to anyone, and over half of the workers were working with hazardous chemicals without proper safety training.

The study also found that many lab employees are working alone in the lab each day, which can be dangerous when conducting science experiments. This seems to suggest that supervisors are not aware of the safety issues within their own labs. In 2009, a 23-year old lab student was killed in a fire at UCLA. That incident, along with several others, prompted the University to commission the recent study. The Center says that they plan an in-depth analysis of their findings later in 2013.

Interestingly, 86 percent of the people interviewed in this study felt that their laboratory was a safe place to work. However, just under half of those surveyed also reported being injured on the job. It is hoped that the senior scientists and department heads at UCLA will make appropriate changes so that their labs will be safer for researchers. For those who are injured while on the job, the first step should be gaining comprehensive knowledge of their rights under California law.

Source: The Scientist, "Lab Safety in the Spotlight," Dan Cossins, Jan. 4, 2013

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