Ivy League Safety

By Frank Kenna

That headline conjures up the idea of top-notch safety performance, right?  Well, in a tragic irony just a few miles down the road from our Wallingford, CT offices, a Yale student died from a typical and obvious safety violation; getting her hair caught in a lathe.
That doesn’t sound like a university issue I know, but here’s what happened.  The student, a talented astronomy and physics major at Yale, died of accidental asphyxia by neck compression after her hair got caught in a high-speed metal lathe she was using while working on her senior project.  No one’s really sure what happened, as she had taken the mandatory university machine shop course that instructs users, among other things, to keep long hair away from the lathe.  Of course OSHA is now all over the incident, but it’s too late.  How could this happen to one of our brightest in a world-class facility such as Yale University?  The same way it happens anywhere else.
Workplace safety is not confined only to companies; it applies to any place where work activity is taking place.  The rules are the same – or should be.  In this case, the student was reportedly working on machinery alone late at night, an obvious safety violation.  And even though she had once been through safety training, I wonder how many safety messages were posted or circulated to students.
This situation is a good reminder to people involved in safety… accidents can – and do -happen anywhere, no matter how unlikely the possibility may seem.

Sharon Toelle
April 20, 2011

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