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POST building

University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa Pacific Ocean Science and Technology Building

The University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa has retained the University of California (UC) Center for Laboratory Safety to conduct an independent investigation to determine the cause of the explosion in a Hawaiʻi Natural Energy Institute biofuels research laboratory in the UH Mānoa Pacific Ocean Science and Technology building on March 16, 2016. A visiting researcher seriously injured in the accident has been released from the hospital.

“The entire Mānoa community is keeping her in our thoughts and prayers for a speedy recovery,” said UH Mānoa Chancellor Robert Bley-Vroman in a message released to UH Mānoa community on April 4, 2016.

The UC Center for Laboratory Safety is considered a national leader in laboratory safety in developing evidence-based best practices and facilitating implementation and optimization of laboratory safety practices. The UC Laboratory Safety Team was on the Mānoa campus the week of March 28 and the investigation is expected to be complete by the end of April.

“All preliminary indications are that the accident was an isolated incident and not the result of a systemic problem at Mānoa or intentional wrongdoing,” said Bley-Vroman.

The Office of the Chancellor, the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research and the UH Mānoa Environmental Health and Safety Office, which is in charge of inspections and training, have begun the process of implementing protocols to further strengthen safety at all UH Mānoa laboratories. UH Mānoa is also asking the UC Center for Laboratory Safety to provide input.

“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,” said Bley-Vroman.

Bley-Vroman also stressed that the importance of ensuring that laboratory safety protocols and training are up to date, including ensuring that all equipment is suitable and meets relevant requirements and that emergency access to all laboratories is readily available. If anyone has any questions regarding lab safety, they are asked to contact the Environmental Health and Safety Office at (808) 956-8660 or via email.

Statement from UH Mānoa Chancellor Robert Bley-Vroman

To the UH Mānoa community:

As many of you already know, on March 16, 2016, there was a tragic accident in a Hawaiʻi Natural Energy Institute biofuels research laboratory in the Pacific Ocean Science and Technology (POST) building. The accident occurred while a postdoctoral fellow was working with a mixture of low-pressure hydrogen, carbon dioxide and oxygen. It is our understanding that the postdoctoral fellow has been released from the hospital. The entire Mānoa community is keeping her in our thoughts and prayers for a speedy recovery.

The Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research has engaged the University of California Center for Laboratory Safety to conduct an independent investigation to determine the cause of the explosion, and to develop lessons learned to help prevent anything like this from recurring. The University of California team was on campus last week, and we anticipate that their investigation will be complete by the end of April. All preliminary indications are that the accident was an isolated incident and not the result of a systemic problem within the POST building or intentional wrongdoing.

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. Toward that end, I want to reemphasize the importance of ensuring that laboratory safety protocols and training are up-to-date, including ensuring that all equipment is suitable and meets relevant requirements and that emergency access to all laboratories is readily available. Please immediately contact the Environmental Health and Safety Office (labsafe@hawaii.edu and/or 808-956-8660) if you have any questions regarding laboratory safety.

In the coming days I will be working with campus leadership and our Environmental Health and Safety Office to identify and implement protocols and processes to further strengthen the safety of our laboratories.

Sincerely,
Robert Bley-Vroman
Chancellor

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