In 2008, a lab research associate at University of California Los Angeles was working on an experiment in the lab. After a highly reactive chemical spilled, it caught on fire and caused a serious, and ultimately fatal, burn accident. According to charges that have recently been filed, the victim’s family is holding UCLA and the student’s chemistry professor responsible.
The young student was working with a chemical that may have been unfamiliar to her. The professor stated that he did not check with her to make sure she understood the risks and hazards of working with the reactant. According to reports, the professor also did not provide adequate safety training or protective attire for students working the lab.
When the chemical spilled on the young student, it caught fire and left the girl severely burned. She suffered second-degree and third-degree burns on nearly half of her body. Sadly, she died from the injuries 18 days later.
After an intense investigation into UCLA safety procedures by the Occupational Safety and Health Standards organization, felony charges were brought against UCLA and the chemistry professor. According to the report, both parties exhibited negligence.
Representatives for UCLA have stated that the felony charges against them are outrageous. They ended up paying some fines, and OSHA ultimately concluded that UCLA did not willfully violate safety standards. Since the charges, however, the victim’s family has stated that they would like the organization punished to the fullest extent. UCLA administration took no steps to correct hazardous conditions in previous injuries. Had they been more responsible, the family says, their loved one may still be alive.
It is unknown what will happen in this case. Will a jury be responsible for deciding who was at fault? Will the sides come to an agreement? If they do decide to come to an agreement, what will the punishment be? Who will be the one punished?
Burn injuries are some of the most painful injuries a person can sustain. The causes and long-term effects of a burn vary widely. Reactions may range from minor to fatal. In many cases when a product is defective or a person has been negligent, the resulting burns may cause scars that last a lifetime. Holding the responsible parties accountable for causing the burns may prevent the situation from happening again.
Source: EHS Today, “Felony Charges Sought in UCLA Lab Assistant Death,” Laura Walter, Jan. 26, 2012