Machine shops may be monitored

YaleEngineering_Mason_B7_ME_student_shop
Photo by Yale Engineering.

Though Yale is attempting to standardize safety procedures in its machine shops after the tragic death of a student last April, one proposed aspect of the new protocol may not appear in every facility.

The April 13 death of Michele Dufault ’11 sparked a Provost’s Office-led review of the University’s safety policies that revamped training procedures for shop staff and students, said Peter Reinhardt, Yale’s director of environmental health and safety. The University will ask anyone planning to use the facilities to consider the risks and sign a form agreeing to abide by the new rules before gaining access to shop equipment. Members of the Provost’s Office committee are also debating the use of video surveillance for shops, but only on a case-by-case basis, Reinhardt added.

“The presence of those cameras in [some] shops have prevented people from breaking the rules, going in when they shouldn’t go in, doing operations they shouldn’t do,” Reinhardt said. “The question is, if it works for those shops, should it be considered for other ones on campus?”

Still, Steven Girvin, deputy provost for science and technology, said Yale is most likely to treat the technology as a “local option” that individual shops may request. He added that there are always privacy issues when video surveillance is involved, and that students would have to sign an agreement noting there may be a monitor in place.

Several shops have already expressed interest in installing the technology, though the Sterling Chemical Laboratory shop where Michelle Dufault ’11 died has not applied for the new safety measure thus far, according to Reinhardt.

Yale has yet to make a final judgement about implementing video surveillance, but the option is “definitely a possibility,” said Girvin, who served as chairman of the provost’s committee tasked with reviewing shop safety procedures. He added that the University will discuss the use of video surveillance with supervisors in the fall.

The Provost’s Office committee drafted shop safety guidelines in its Aug. 19 report that officially forbid working alone and playing loud music in shops, among other regulations. These rules have been posted in all machine shops — following Dufault’s death, the Federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration castigated Yale for not previously posting any rules.

The new, written consent form also aims to standardize and cement safety awareness. Training and acceptance of safety guidelines had been “very verbal” before the procedures were overhauled, Reinhardt said.

“We recognized that some things needed to be developed, so we developed them and implemented them,” Reinhardt said. “The more we peel this onion back, the more we learn about specific things that we have been doing and should do to preserve the safety of these operations.”

Reinhardt said that those forms were sent to shop supervisors in late August, and will likely be distributed in the coming week. They will be given to undergraduates, graduate students, faculty and staff alike.

Instructors will sign off on those agreement forms, but the forms themselves will not greenlight members of the Yale community to work with machines on which they have not been trained, or allow them to operate more dangerous machines without supervision, Girvin said.

“We sort of view this as a learner’s permit, not as a driver’s license,” he said.

Undergraduates with machine shop training may operate less dangerous equipment as long as another qualified undergraduate is present; to use more dangerous machinery, they must be in the presence of an instructor or designated monitor.

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