The Texas Tech Office of Environmental Health and Safety and outside experts are investigating an explosion that occurred on 5:30 p.m. Friday in the Chemistry building.
The laboratory in question was being used solely by employees of an organic chemical production company, according to a university press release.
This company has a contractual research relationship with a faculty member in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry. The laboratory hood where the explosion occurred was being used for the crystallization of an organic compound, but it appears this reaction had no role in the explosion.
Taylor Eighmy, vice president of research at Tech, said less than a quart of dilute nitric acid sprayed over the laboratory’s floor after the explosion. The experiment being conducted in the laboratory involved synthesizing organic chemicals, he said.
No one was hurt and the laboratory was empty at the time of the explosion. The building was evacuated afterward as members of the Lubbock Fire Department and its Haz-Mat team responded. The team cleaned the acid on the laboratory’s floor and the building was reopened two hours later.
Tech president Guy Bailey said the university has made strides in safety measures since an explosion on Jan. 7, 2010, injured a graduate student, but the current accident shows more needs to be done.
“We have worked closely with the U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board throughout its investigation,” Bailey said. “We intend to become an exemplar in our campus climate and culture around laboratory safety. We have come a long way since 2010. However, as you also know, another laboratory accident occurred last week in chemistry and biochemistry, and this means that we have much more to work on as we move forward.”
Tech is currently investigating Friday’s accident and the findings will be released once the investigation is completed. Information about the incident will be published at http://www.csbresponse.ttu.edu.
Eighmy said the incidents that occurred last week and in 2010 are unrelated, though both show Tech needs to instate better safety measures.
“Though the two separate accidents were not connected with respect to the nature of the research or individuals involved, they both occurred in the same department here at Texas Tech University within 20 months of each other,” Eighmy said in a statement. “We have a lot of work to still do. While progress has been made, this second accident just further reinforces the importance of changing the culture of laboratory safety at the university.”