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Lab workers at risk of injuries from unsafe conditions

The very word "laboratory" comes from the Latin word for work. And indeed, in our society based to such a degree on science and various forms of research, many people work in research labs all week long - and are often put at risk of workplace injuries and illnesses.

A recent survey of scientists gives an indication of the scope of the problem. The risks range from bites by laboratory animals to the inhalation of harmful chemicals. Laboratory workers in Pennsylvania and across the country are affected by these threats. And when the result is a workplace injury or illness, a workers' compensation claim may be in order.

The study of laboratory safety was organized by researchers at the Center for Laboratory Safety at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). It was prompted by the death of a 23-year-old research assistant in a lab fire at UCLA four years ago. A lab assistant also died at Yale University in 2011.

The study focused on academic laboratories and included scientists not only in the U.S., but also in Europe, China, Japan and Britain. The results showed a disconnect between scientists' perception of safety and the frequency of workplace injuries.

About 2,400 scientists responded to the survey, and an overwhelming majority (86 percent) of them said they thought their labs were safe for people who work there. But nearly half of those labs had experienced some form of injuries to workers.

Many respondents to the survey also pointed to specific elements of the problem of unsafe working conditions in labs. As in other industries, injuries often go unreported and training on particular hazards is often lacking.

Source: "Safety survey reveals lab risks," Nature, Richard Van Noorden, 1-2-13

Our firm handles situations similar to those discussed in this post. To learn more about our practice, please visit our Pennsylvania workplace injuries page.

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