State cites UH for workplace safety violations stemming from lab explosion
The University of Hawaii is now facing workplace safety violations and fines. It stems from a chemical explosion in a lab that cost a researcher her arm. KITV's Catherine Cruz has the latest.
It was back in March that an explosion seriously injured 29-year-old Thea Ekins Coward. The visiting researcher lost her arm.
The blast also caused a million dollars worth of damage.
Inspectors with the state's Occupational Health and Safety office have now cited the university for 15 violations. The fines total $115,500.
The violations classified as "serious" include failing to eliminate or reduce explosion hazards, as well as a failure to provide two exit routes from the lab.
It also noted the university did not conduct periodic in-house inspections and it lacked a written evacuation plan in the event of a chemical release.
The report also found UH failed to regularly review its Chemical Hygiene plan to protect its employees.
The university said since the blast, its focus has been on creating a culture of safety to help identify laboratory hazards and risks.
"On top of the annual inspections that we are already doing, and the intensive training with the researchers working in these environments, we formed a committee on chemical and physical hazards to review everything we are ready doing and what we can improve on," said UH spokesman Dan Meisenzahl.
Six months after the explosion the basement labs are still closed and off limits. It's all part of process to understand what happened and how to avoid a repeat.
There is no date set on when the labs will reopen.
"We are constantly looking at how we can get better. There are best practices out there we are reviewing. This HIOSH report will be another resource and hopefully it may possibly recognize some gaps that we didn't recognize but it’s all about getting better," Meisenzahl said.
The university will sit down with inspectors to discuss the citations on Sept 30.