Just hours after the tragic death of Michele Dufault ’11 last Wednesday, the University and the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration announced investigations into working conditions in Yale’s machine shops and labs.
But even before those investigations are complete, the University has taken steps to shore up safety around campus. Supervisors and monitors in all of Yale’s machine shops, labs and darkrooms have to receive confined space entry training this week, and the science community is not the only one affected by the change of policies. The arts community, including photography labs and the Yale Dramatic Association, may also change their policies toward machine use.
The training sessions will begin today and continue through Thursday, wrote Stephanie Perry, business manager at Yale’s environmental health and safety office, in an e-mail forwarded to all shop monitors and supervisors.
“This two-hour course will include a discussion of the implementation and enforcement of safety rules for shops and is intended for all shops where a Yale student would be likely to work or have any interaction,” Perry wrote in the e-mail.
Shop monitors will be instructed in emergency response procedures, according to an outline of the course included in Perry’s e-mail. They will also be instructed in their authority to prevent or stop someone from working if they seem impaired or if their actions are unsafe, among other safety protocols, according to the outline.
The training is mandatory for all labs and darkrooms, even those where students do not operate dangerous machinery. Isabelle Chafkin ’11, a monitor at what she called the “low-key” darkroom at the School of Art, said she and her fellow darkroom monitors have thus far only had darkroom-specific training dealing with the dangers posed by some of the chemicals used in developing photographs.
“All the training that we’ve received has been totally adequate to deal with darkroom-specific things, but we haven’t received any emergency training,” Chafkin said, adding that she thinks emergency response training is a good idea for anyone using the shops or darkrooms.
Though Chafkin said she has never had an emergency during one of her shifts, the darkroom’s manager, Ben Donaldson, reported in an e-mail just last week that someone using the darkroom required an ambulance when they fainted after receiving a cut.
At the Dramat, the longstanding tradition of “striking,” or taking down, a set the night after the final show could be a thing of the past.
Dufault’s accident has led the Yale Dramatic Association to tweak its operations as well. The Dramat’s production of “The Last Days of Judas Iscariot” took down its set Sunday instead of immediately after Saturday night’s final performance so that cast and crew would not be working with machinery late into the night, said Dramat President Lily Lamb-Atkinson ’12. She said the Dramat came to the decision on Thursday after a conversation with their technical advisir from the Office of Undergraduate Productions, and added that this may not be a permanent change.
“There’s nothing we were particularly concerned about,” Lamb-Atkinson said. “We’re just being vigilant. It’s basically a response to safety concerns around campus.”
In an e-mail last week, University President Richard Levin announced that Steven Girvin, deputy provost for science and technology, will lead a review of safety policies in all facilities where undergraduates can access and operate power equipment.
Dufault died last week when her hair became caught in a metal lathe in the Sterling Chemistry Laboratory’s machine shop as she worked late into the night on her senior project. OSHA investigators were on campus last week to gather information about the incident, OSHA spokesman Ted Fitzgerald said.
Correction: April 18, 2011
An earlier version of this article misspelled the name of Isabelle Chafkin ’11.