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Workplace accident at research lab watched closely in Colorado

Colorado employees may not be strangers to workplace safety initiatives, but they also likely know that accidents can occur at any time and to anyone. When a workplace accident does occur resulting in serious injuries or even death, families may feel overwhelmed and even devastated. A workplace injury can happen to employees in any workplace, but job conditions may be more dangerous for those working around toxic materials and substances. One recent west coast case illustrates just how dangerous research labs can be due to toxic and dangerous chemicals and what can happen when safety is not a priority.

A prominent west coast university's board of regents, along with the professor in charge, has been charged with felonies relating to the death of a research worker. The accident occurred in 2009 when the researcher was working with a highly flammable solution in a syringe. When the plunger was accidentally pulled out, the solution ignited immediately when exposed to air, catching the researcher's gloves and clothing on fire. She was not wearing fire-resistant clothing or a lab coat. She was so severely burned that she died 18 days later in the hospital.

The University of California's Board of Regents and the professor in charge are now facing criminal liability for the death of this employee after Cal/OSHA investigated the accident. They are being charged with involuntary manslaughter as well as felony violations of labor codes. These charges are precedential, and have caused research labs and universities all across the United States to take a look at their own safety practices and implementation. According to reports, the death of this researcher was not the first or the last accident that has occurred at UCLA, but was one of the most tragic.

Any workplace injury can have devastating effects for workers and their families. In this tragic case, a researcher lost her life needlessly. Workplaces should be monitored for safety by employers, but even so, dangerous situations can arise. It is important for Colorado workers to know their rights if they have suffered a workplace injury. Workers' compensation claims may be a viable option for these employees and their families to stay financially secure while they move forward after an accident.

Source: iwatchnews.org, "Landmark worker death case continues against UCLA chemistry professor," Jim Morris, July 27, 2012

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