OSHA Faults Yale In Lab Accident

Sharon Rieger's picture
Wednesday, August 17, 2011

A piece of lab machinery that killed a Yale University student when it ensnared her hair was missing required safeguards, and the accident exposed problems with the school's safety policies, federal safety investigators said in a letter to the school.

The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration didn't fine Yale, saying it lacked jurisdiction because there was no employer-employee relationship. But in a letter obtained by The Associated Press, OSHA told school officials that it found numerous problems in the machine shop where Michele Dufault was killed on April 12.

Dufault, a physics and astronomy major from Scituate, Mass., who was close to graduating, was working alone in the lab when her hair was pulled into a fast-spinning lathe. Police say they received a call at 2:30 a.m., although the time of the accident was not clear.

The lathe, built in 1962, lacked an emergency stop button that could shut off power and was missing physical guards to protect the operator, OSHA wrote in the letter. The Associated Press obtained a copy of the letter Tuesday through a Freedom of Information Act request.

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