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Lessons Learned

This page describes accidents at facilities across the country and describes best practices to avoid reoccurrence.  Accidents are organized by type of industry.


Additional lessons learned can be found at UC's Center For Laboratory SafetyAIHA's Chemical Synthesis Lab Accidents, the Laboratory Safety Institute's Memorial Wall, and UC Berkeley's Lessons Learned.

Repetitive motion injury from ill-fitting Glove Box us, 9-10 hours per day.

Equipment is typically designed for the standard male height of 5'10" - 6'.  If you are smaller, accommodations may need to be made to prevent injury.  Contact EHS for further information.

  • Four people asphyxiated when carrying dry ice in a cooler in a vehicle (2018)Related article
    • Best Practice- If you must transport dry ice, keep it outside of the passenger compartment and roll down windows.
  • Dichloromethane injection (2018) Related article
    • Best practice - Wear gloves that will protect you against the chemicals you are working with.  Seek medical attention immediately for any exposure, no matter how small.
  • Hydrogen explosion (2016)Related article
    • Best Practice - Use only intrinsically safe equipment near hydrogen.  Ground equipment involved with flammable gases or liquids.  Review any near misses before continuing work or scaling up reactions.
  • Aqua Regia spill (2015) - Freshly made bottle of aqua regia burst.
    • Best practice - Use clean bottles to store aqua regia.  Don't seal bottles tightly.                                                     
  •  Laboratory fire resulting from hydrogenation reaction         
    • Best Practice - Reduce quantities, run reaction in inert atmosphere, reduce temperature, use chlorinated solvent.
  • Chemical Exposure (2012).  Student exposed to chemicals from leaking separatory funnel.
    • Best Practice - Wear long pants, stand at the bench rather than sit.
  • Explosion in synthesis lab (2010).  Related article
    • Best Practice - Create and follow standard operating procedures.
  • Waste bottle explosion due to mixing nitric acid with organics (2009).  
    • Best Practice - Separate incompatible chemicals into individual waste bottles that are properly labeled to avoid confusion.
  • Fire from misuse of pyrophoric chemical (2008).  Related article
    • Best Practice - Follow standard operating procedures for use and quantity.  Wear flame-resistant lab coat.
  • Exposure to Herpes B virus from monkey (1997).  Related article
    • Best Practice - Wear appropriate personal protective equipment, such as gloves and goggles.
  • Mercury poisoning (1996)Related article
    • Best Practice - Wear gloves that protect you from the chemicals you are working with.


  • The Wall of the Dead - A Memorial to Fallen Naturalists
  • Panama, Wildlife Biology (2017) - Parker James Matzinger – 22, of Ashland, Oregon, passed away on Jan. 26, he had just begun a three-month internship with the Smithsonian Institute and was setting up a new animal camera traps in the jungle.  Related article
  • USA (California), Climate Research (2017) - Staff climbed 10' up a pole to retrieve equipment when the pole broke, trapping worker's head. The worker was wearing a hard hat and climbing harness but sustained damage to teeth.  The second worker was able to assist with the rescue.
  • Ethiopia, Plant Biology (2016) - Sharon Gray – Post-doc at UC Davis, killed when a rock went through her car window and hit her head, on the outskirts of the capital city, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.  Related article
  • Antarctica, Climate Research (2016) - Gordon Hamilton – Professor at UMaine conducting climate systems research, died in a snowmobile crash into a crevasse in Antarctica.  Related article
  • Congo, Wildlife Biology (2016) - Jana Robeyst –  Wildlife Conservation Society field researcher, charged by a wild elephant – Related article
  • USA (Santee National Wildlife Refuge) (2016) – Wayne Grooms – rattlesnake bite to his lower left leg.  Related article
  • Zambia, Wildlife Biology (2015) – Margarita Metallinou – Researcher from Villanova University specializing in reptiles was working in Kafue National Park, when an elephant trampled her to death, age 29.  Related article
  • Ethiopia, Wildlife Biology (2015) - Bill Stanley - head of the mammal collection at the Field Museum in Chicago, died of a heart attack, age 58 while running traplines for rare species in Ethiopia.  Related article
  • Mongolia, Wildlife Biology (2015) - Lkagvasumberel  Tomorsukh - with the Snow Leopard Trust, working directly with leopards radio-collaring, camera trapping, surveying, and outreach.  Probable murder.  Related article
  • U.S.A (Bridger-Teton National Forest) (2014) – Adam Stewart – killed by a bear on a solo trip in the Teton Wilderness to conduct a vegetation survey.  Related article, OSHA investigation
  • Finland, Wildlife Biology (2014) - Keren Embar – Post-doc at Ben Gurion University (Israel) studying hantavirus, died of hantavirus while studying voles in Finland.  Related article
  • Antarctica, Marine Biology/Diving (2014) - Luigi Michaud – research fellow developing new antibiotics for the treatment of cystic fibrosis, died while diving in Antarctica collecting marine bacteria.  Related article
  • India, Wildlife Biology (2014) - Subramanian Bupathy – herpetologist at Salim Ali Centre for Ornithology and Natural History (India), died from a severe fall in mountains while studying reptiles.  Related article
  • USA (Arizona), Wildlife Biology (2014) – Ronnie Sidner - mammalogist, conservationist, and tireless advocate for bats, died in an automobile accident after leading a bat field trip.  Related article 


  • Hair Caught in a Lathe (2011)Related article
    • Best Practice - Don't work alone, keep hair secured, provide guards for hazardous equipment.