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Tragic machine shop accident kills student at Yale University

When most people think of college campuses, they envision libraries, auditoriums, dormitories and an intellectually charged atmosphere in which people are free to pursue their studies and/or work. While this is certainly true, it must be remembered that college campuses - like any other work site - must have the necessary policies and procedures in place to prevent serious work injuries and ensure the safety of students/faculty/employees.

However, sometimes even when an academic institution has this degree of protection in place, it is simply not enough to stop serious or even fatal accidents.

Unfortunately, this was the case earlier this week at Yale University, where a talented senior majoring in both physics and astronomy was killed in a tragic on-campus accident while working on a science-related project.

According to preliminary reports from government officials, Michele D. was killed in a freak accident in a Yale machine shop when her hair became entangled in a lathe - a machine that shapes wood or metal at high speeds.

The accident has understandably left many on the Yale campus shaken and prompted a full-scale review of the university's safety policies/practices in laboratories, machine shops and other locations where students have access to power tools/dangerous machinery.

According to Yale president Richard C. Levin, until this review is complete, undergraduate access to the aforementioned facilities will be restricted and those students allowed to use such equipment will be overseen by safety monitors.

It is worth noting that the accident also prompted an investigation by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to determine whether the proper safety standards to prevent work injuries/fatalities were observed.

"We need to determine what safety standards will apply and whether the employer complied with those standards," said Ted Fitzgerald, an OSHA spokesperson.

Michele D. will be honored at a memorial service to be held later this semester.

Stay tuned for further developments in the area of workers' compensation defense law ...

This post was provided for informational purposes only and is not to be construed as legal advice. Names have been withheld to protect the identity of the victims.

Related Resources:

Yale lab accident kills Scituate woman (The Boston Globe)

1 Comment

It appears that the student was working alone, unsupervised, with minimum training operating a metal lathe. The student was not a trained machinist.

Many universities prohibit the operation of this type of equipment by students alone unsupervised.

I question the training, supervision and working alone policy that permitted this to happen.

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