The death of a student at a Yale University lab earlier this year was caused by a lack of safety gear, according to a new report from the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).
Michele Dufault, a senior, was working at the Sterling Chemistry Lab on campus when her hair got caught in a lathe on Apr. 12. She died from a lack of oxygen caused by neck compression, the medical examiner's office later confirmed.
In the Aug. 15 report, OSHA claims that the machine Dufault was working on lacked required safeguard. Yale also lacked an emergency shut-off switch and a guard or shield to protect the person operating the lathe, an OSHA spokesman told Reuters.
Warning signs and insufficient record keeping of the lab were also missing. But most of all, the fact that Dufault was working alone was the biggest hazard in itself, OSHA added.
Yale University has since disputed the claims made by OSHA.
"The machine in question met ANSI (American National Standards Institute) standards, which incorporate both training and personal protective equipment for certain types of machines and activities . . . machine tool training provided by Yale was extensive, consistently reinforced by professional staff, and confirmed by Yale's expert to be exemplary," the school said in a statement released to Reuters.
Despite the new findings of the safety hazards, OSHA did not issue a fine on Yale, since a student, not employee, was involved.
Dufault, a 22-year-old physics and astronomy major from Scituate, Mass., was just weeks away from graduation.
In July, Yale University named asteroid number 15338 after Dufault.
"I can't think of a more fitting memorial to Michele, whose thoughts were always stretching to the furthest reaches of the Universe . . . now she is officially part of that Universe," Professor Megan Urry told the Yale Daily News.
Urry also provided the official citation for the naming of the asteroid. Family and friends of Dufault are currently setting up a summer fellowship in her memory.
"Michelle was passionate about science and about encouraging others, especially young women, to pursue science careers," Urry wrote.