The University of Hawaii at Manoa has asked the University of California Center for Laboratory Safety to investigate the cause of a lab explosion that severely injured a visiting postdoc last month. The accident occurred when Thea Ekins-Coward was conducting a routine procedure involving the transfer of hydrogen, oxygen and carbon dioxide gases into a small, low pressure cylinder to make a growth medium for cells. Despite losing an arm, she has been released from the hospital.
The California team was on the Hawaii campus the week of 28 March, and its investigation is expected to be completed by the end of April. The California centre was established in March 2011, following a 2008 accident at the University of California, Los Angeles that led to the death of a young research assistant from burns sustained while performing an experiment with a pyrophoric substance.
Preliminary indications are that the Hawaii accident was ‘an isolated incident and not the result of a systemic problem at Manoa or intentional wrongdoing’, according to the university’s chancellor, Robert Bley-Vroman, in a 4 April statement.
‘As we seek answers to how this incident occurred, it is important that we as a community reaffirm our commitment to a culture of safety in each and every research and teaching laboratory on our campus,’ Bley-Vroman added. He emphasised the importance of ensuring that lab safety protocols and training are up-to-date, including making sure that all equipment is suitable and meets relevant requirements.