University cited for safety violations after lab explosion

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University of Hawaii faces more than $100,000 in fines in connection with a lab explosion earlier this year that resulted in a researcher losing her arm.

The university was cited this week for 15 violations by the Hawaii Occupational Safety and Health Office related to the March 16 incident. UH officials are set to meet with representatives of the state office later this month to address the violations, Hawaii News Now reported (

Investigators determined the explosion was caused by static electricity that released into a tank. They identified a digital pressure gauge as the origin of the electrical current that caused the detonation while researcher Thea Ekins-Coward had been conducting an experiment.

The state occupational safety office found the university didn't properly train employees or ensure they had proper safety gear. The university was also cited for a blocked exit route, failure to reduce occupational hazards as required, and not following its own established safety procedures.

The explosion occurred in a laboratory on the school's flagship Manoa campus that is part of the Hawaii Natural Energy Institute. After the incident, university officials shut down all school laboratories that were involved with the use of flammable or pressured gases for several months to improve lab safety.

The penalties against the university will likely be reduced after the Sept. 30 meeting if the school can demonstrate it has taken steps to address the safety violations.


Information from: KGMB-TV,