Lessons Learned

Reports on incidents that involve injury, exposure (real or potential), or significant damage property. Lessons Learned detail what happened and how similar incidents can be avoided in the future.

Laser Safety in Research Laboratories

July 31, 2003

In April 2003, the Non-Ionizing Radiation Safety Committee (NIRSC) informed the laser research community that a serious laser eye injury had occurred on the UC Berkeley campus. The campus Laboratory Safety Officer (LSO) performed an investigation of the incident. The following information and lessons learned are based on the LSO’s investigation of the incident.

Injury Caused by High Voltage Capacitor Discharge

May 31, 2005

What Happened?

A campus employee working in an electronics shop was repairing a power supply unit. The cooling fan had not been working properly, causing the unit to overheat. The employee replaced the defective cooling fan and then reached into the open top of the power supply unit to check the airflow from the replacement fan. The employee either made contact with a charged capacitor or was close enough (within 1/4") to allow electricity to arc to his hand causing an electric shock that entered his left hand and exited through his right hand.

Improper Labeling Causes Injury from Acid Spray

September 30, 2004

What Happened?

A UC Berkeley researcher was preparing a sample for microscopy. After he had cleaned the sample with isopropanol, he poured the extra isopropanol into a container for unwanted chemicals labeled “isopropanol.” There was an immediate chemical reaction that caused the plastic container to rupture and spray the mixture around the area. He was later surprised to learn that the container actually held concentrated nitric acid in the form of spent copper etchant.

Needlestick from Regular Trash

July 31, 2005

What Happened?

An employee in Campus Recycling & Refuse Services was stuck by a needle while emptying trash bags from a dumpster behind Wellman Hall. The incident happened early in the morning, and the employee sought immediate off-site medical care. A physician dispensed antiretrovirals for a possible Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) exposure, and the employee was very concerned that he might have been infected with a life-threatening disease.

Fire Hazard with Immersion Water Heaters

September 30, 2005

What Happened?

It is believed that a Cole Parmer Polystat 12002 immersion heater in a University of California, Santa Cruz (UCSC) microbiology laboratory did not shut off as the water level in the plastic bath dropped, allowing the temperature to rise to the point that the bath material ignited. The fire caused extensive damage to the building and shut down research for several months.

Peroxide Explosion Injures Campus Researcher

November 30, 2006

What Happened?

Missing Guard on Incubator Fan Injures Post Doc

July 31, 2007

What Happened?

A postdoctoral researcher was reaching into a New Brunswick Scientific Model G-25R Shaker Table Incubator to clean up a spill when her right hand got caught in the spinning exhaust fan blade.  She lacerated her middle finger and lost part of the fingernail.  She was treated in a local hospital emergency room.

Acetone Fire

July 31, 2008

What happened?

Oleylamine Chemical Burn

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