I didn’t know the young woman who was fatally burned at UCLA working with t-butyl lithium. It appears that several errors intersected after the reagent spilled and caught fire: she was wearing a flammable sweater, the fume hood wasn’t down far enough, she didn’t run toward the emergency shower.

My first job working in a chemistry lab was at UCLA. It was just for the summer and I didn’t distinguish myself in any big way. I dropped a jug of organic solvent (heptane, perhaps) on my foot and the glass broke. Embarassing, but at least there was no spark!

I also remember a big liquid nitrogen tank having its valve stuck open and the lab folk wheeled it out onto a balcony so it could vent.


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