CSB Investigates Lab Explosion at Texas Tech University

The U.S. Chemical Safety Board (CSB) recently announced it will investigate the causes of a Jan. 7 explosion that severely injured a graduate student at Texas Tech University in Lubbock, Texas.

University officials told CSB the accident occurred in the chemistry department during the handling of a high-energy metal compound, which suddenly detonated. Texas Tech had entered into an agreement with Northeastern University, which holds a contract from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to study the high-energy materials.

“We see serious accidents in high school and university labs every year, including a tragic fatality a year ago at UCLA,” said CSB Chairman John Bresland. “I believe it is time to begin examining these accidents to see if they can be prevented through the kind of rigorous safety management systems that we and others have advocated in industrial settings.”

Bresland said CSB planned to collect information on several laboratory accidents for a future study on the topic. Investigations Supervisor Don Holmstrom, who manages the Board’s Western Regional Office in Denver, will lead the investigation, along with CSB Investigator Dr. Mary Beth Mulcahy, a physical chemist.

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