The independent investigation into the March 16, 2016 explosion in a University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa laboratory is now expected to be complete in mid to late May. It was initially expected to finish by the end of April.
The University of California Center for Laboratory Safety, retained by UH to conduct the investigation, was unable to send materials involved in the explosion for testing until the Hawaiʻi State Occupational Safety and Health Division (HIOSH), the government agency investigating the accident, completed its review of the accident scene. HIOSH released the materials and scene to UH late last week.
A postdoctoral researcher was seriously injured in the accident that happened in a Hawaiʻi Natural Energy Institute biofuels research laboratory in the UH Mānoa Pacific Ocean Science and Technology building.
A Honolulu Fire Department investigation classified the incident as an accident. In its preliminary investigation, the UC Center for Laboratory Safety, considered a national leader in laboratory safety, determined that the explosion was an isolated incident and not the result of a systemic problem. The UC Laboratory Safety Team was on the Mānoa campus the week of March 28.
The UH Mānoa Environmental Health and Safety Office also surveyed the 500-plus labs on the Mānoa campus and determined that there were no similar experiments taking place. UH is creating a new Chemical and Physical Safety Committee that will have representatives from all of the schools and colleges that have research and teaching laboratories. The committee will work with other safety related committees already in place to identify and implement protocols and processes to further strengthen safety at all UH laboratories.