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CSB to investigate Texas Tech chemistry department explosion (1/20)

January 20, 2010
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The U.S. Chemical Safety Board (CSB) will investigate the causes of a January 7 explosion that severely injured a graduate student at Texas Tech University in Lubbock, Texas, the CSB announced.

University officials told the 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.”

Mr. Bresland said the 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.

The CSB is an independent federal agency charged with investigating serious chemical accidents. The agency's board members are appointed by the president and confirmed by the Senate. CSB investigations look into all aspects of chemical accidents, including physical causes such as equipment failure as well as inadequacies in regulations, industry standards, and safety management systems.

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