Mar 30, 2012
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Chilling details of the investigative report by California’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health into the UCLA lab fire that killed Sheri Sangji were just made public in January.
They contradict claims made by the university since being criminally charged by the Los Angeles County District Attorney.
Senior Special Investigator Brian Baudendistel wrote, “based upon the investigation, it is apparent that the laboratory safety practices utilized by UCLA prior to Victim Sangji’s death were so defective as to render the University’s required Chemical Hygiene Plan and Injury and Illness Prevention Program essentially non-existent. The lack of adequate lab safety training and documentation, lack of effective hazard communication practices, and repeated failure to correct persistent and repeated safety violations within University labs, were all causal deficiencies that led to a systematic breakdown of overall laboratory safety practices at UCLA.
“The testimony obtained in this case clearly establishes that the University accepted the fact that many Principal Investigators [including Harran, Sangji’s supervisor] consistently failed to enforce the use of personal protective equipment within their labs as ‘part of the culture.’ In fact, as the University’s former Manager of Chemical Safety, William Peck, candidly admitted, ‘...It was kind of common knowledge that laboratory people don’t use the proper PPE [personal protective equipment] when they are in the lab ... it was hard to convince the professors that they needed to ... and if the professors didn’t enforce it, nobody did.’”
“Dr. Harran simply disregarded the open and obvious dangers presented in this case and permitted Victim Sangji to work in a manner that knowingly caused her to be exposed to a serious and foreseeable risk of serious injury or death,” Baudendistel wrote.
Baudendistel also documented technical failings in the lab and the inappropriate equipment that Sangji used to handle a dangerous chemical substance. “If Dr. Harran had utilized a standard operating procedure as required and would have properly trained Victim Sangji, and assured that clothing appropriate for the work was worn to protect her from inadvertent exposure to tert-Butyl lithium, Victim Sangji’s death would have been prevented,” he concluded.