News

March 5, 2020

Coronavirus (COVID-19) Information:

For the latest information on the coronavirus outbreak from campus leadership, please visit the Berkeley News - Coronavirus Information website.

October 22, 2019

What happened?

A vacuum chamber over-pressurized while a researcher was returning the vacuum to atmosphere by venting with nitrogen from a gas cylinder. The chamber was left to fill while the researcher worked on other tasks. By the time the researcher returned, the chamber had over-pressurized and the view window shattered.

May 28, 2019

What happened?

A researcher packaged a microgram crystalline sample with dry ice to ensure sample integrity. The crystalline sample was first placed inside a glass vial, which was subsequently housed inside a plastic secondary container with a screw cap. The researcher placed dry ice around the glass vial inside the secondary container before loosely capping the top to vent.

October 24, 2018

What happened?

A campus employee was holding onto the grab bars at the top of a fixed vertical ladder and was beginning to descend when one of the grab bars broke off, causing the employee to fall about 13 feet. The employee sustained significant injuries to several toes. The incident occurred on a roof mounted cooling tower.

July 3, 2018

What happened?

A graduate student researcher was consolidating aqueous nitric acid solutions into a 4-L bottle marked as hazardous waste. The bottle was stored inside a fume hood along with other waste bottles, organic reagent bottles, a hotplate and an oil bath. The fume hood sash was left open when all researchers left at the end of the day.

October 17, 2016

What happened?

A student conducting a physics experiment was briefly exposed to specular and diffuse reflections from a continuous wave 975 nm invisible laser beam while not wearing laser eye protection. The student was applying oil to an objective lens with a glass stick when it was noted that the laser was still on. The student was immediately referred to the optometry clinic and was promptly examined. No eye damage was found.

November 13, 2015

What Happened?

A postdoctoral researcher was synthesizing potentially explosive material in a fume hood, following a well-established procedure published in a peer-reviewed journal. The researcher was transferring a residual amount of the synthesized material using a plastic spatula when the material exploded in his hands. The shattered glassware caused some minor cuts to the researcher’s hands.

August 31, 2015

What Happened?

A UC Berkeley researcher was working in a lab with a highly corrosive sulfuric acid and hydrogen peroxide (piranha) solution to clean the surface of a glass sample in a fume hood.

July 31, 2015

May 31, 2015

ANSI-approved safety glasses—and other personal protective equipment specified in the Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs)—are essential whenever working with hazardous materials. SOPs also indicate other precautions that must be followed to ensure safety, such as performing work with energetic or explosive materials behind a fume hood sash or blast shield. 

July 31, 2013

What happened?

An employee was working in the bed of a large pickup truck. The truck was equipped with a Tommy Gate lift and hinged gate doors that opened outward. The employee was attempting to get down from the truck, so he placed his left hand on the door hinge and jumped down. His wedding ring caught on the grease fitting and caused an avulsion* injury of the finger, also referred to as “degloving.”

March 31, 2013

What Happened?

A chemistry researcher was using an older model hot plate to heat an oil bath to 120-150°F. He borrowed the hotplate from someone else and was not familiar with the temperature controls. On this particular hot plate the temperature dial could go around from “LO” to “OFF” and back to “HI” heat. The researcher thought he had turned the hotplate “OFF” but it was still in the “ON” position and 30 minutes later the mineral oil bath ignited.

October 31, 2011

What Happened?

A recent lab accident caused serious injury to a UCB graduate student due to an over-pressurization that caused a glass reactor to fail. Glass was sprayed at the researcher who received cuts to his lip, chin, chest, and serious cuts to his hands. 911 was called and the researcher was taken by ambulance to the hospital. The cuts to the hand were serious enough to require stitches and surgery on the palm.

July 31, 2011

October 31, 2009

August 31, 2009

In 2008 and 2009 UC Berkeley experienced two serious injuries resulting from falls from ladders.

February 28, 2009

What happened?

In July 2008, a guest scientist at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory sustained a minor injury when the cap of a 50-Liter liquid nitrogen Dewar burst off and hit his forehead. The scientist needed to fill the Dewar - which hadn't been used for several months - and assumed it was depressurized because of its lack of use.

December 31, 2008

What happened?

  • A laboratory researcher suffered a delayed chemical burn after only a few drops of a highly corrosive organic chemical splattered on his unprotected left forearm.
  • The burns first appeared hours after exposure, got worse overnight, and eventually required treatment at a hospital.

forearm with spotted chemical burns

July 31, 2008

What happened?

What Happened?

A 9.4 Tesla superconducting magnet, used for mass spectroscopy in a campus laboratory recently suffered a catastrophic failure. The incident was apparently caused by over-pressurization and failure of the liquid helium (LHe) chamber. Although there were no injuries because the incident occurred during off-hours, the potential for significant injury due to the venting of LHe into the facility was present. There was also significant damage to equipment associated with the magnet.