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Editor’s note, October 7, 2016—The University of Hawaiʻi and the Hawaiʻi Occupational Safety and Health office reached an agreement reducing the number of penalties from 15 to 9, which reduced the total amount of fines incurred by the university. UH believes that the settlement is an acknowledgement by HIOSH that the university takes this matter very seriously. (The following story is from September 21, 2016.)

The State of Hawaiʻi Occupational Safety and Health office (HIOSH) issued one citation and 15 penalties on September 19 as a result of its investigation into the March 16, 2016 accident at a University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa research laboratory that seriously injured a post doctoral researcher. UH will be requesting an informal conference with HIOSH to clarify the citations and discuss adjustments of the citations, as provided for in the HIOSH citations process.

The latest development is also an opportunity to remind all UH students, faculty and staff of the importance of safety and to inform the community of recent steps taken:

  • UH Mānoa safety officers and leadership have been working diligently to further strengthen the culture of safety on the Mānoa campus and foster an environment where hazard recognition and risk assessment are the standard of care for all activities.
  • The Chemical and Physical Hazards Committee (CPHC) was established by the Office of the Vice Chancellor of Research to promote a greater awareness and commitment to health and safety in research and teaching laboratories. The committee is working with the UH Environmental Health and Safety Office (EHSO) staff and other sources, including the UC Center for Laboratory Safety, to identify and implement protocols and processes to strengthen the safety program. Initial steps that the committee will be taking are to request that each Principal Investigator submit a chemical inventory and complete a physical hazards survey.
  • EHSO and the CPHC members will be reviewing online risk and hazard assessment identification tools that provide a means of assessing and tracking hazards in the laboratories.
  • EHSO is reporting a significant increase in information requests as faculty, staff and students are heeding the call to reaffirm their commitment to a culture of safety after the accident.
  • EHSO is continuing with their annual inspections and is also evaluating how inspections can best be conducted to determine that Principal Investigators are following best practices to ensure the health and safety of all laboratory personnel.

It is essential that all health and safety policies and procedures are followed and that training records are up to date. For any questions regarding lab safety, please contact the Environmental Health and Safety Office at (808) 956-8660 or labsafe@hawaii.edu.

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