University silent on radiation exposures

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 16 February, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 16 February, 2008, 12:00am

Baptist University has refused to discuss a report that found students were exposed to ultraviolet radiation due to a number of failings, including an academic staff member being unfamiliar with the hazards.

Last October, 18 third-year students had eye and skin complaints after they were exposed to UV radiation in a laboratory class in the school of Chinese medicine.

The university issued a press release last week, saying it would boost safety measures in its laboratories but this week refused to talk to the South China Morning Post.

An investigation found that the academic staff member was unaware of the hazards of UV radiation; there was 'insufficient technical support' on the day of the accident; specific safety alerts or precautions were not listed in students' lab manuals; and laboratory safety practices were not enforced.

In the press release, the dean of the school of Chinese medicine, Liu Liang, said the school had stepped up safety measures in laboratories.

The measures include reinforcing the practice of assigning an associate professor and a senior technical officer to oversee training and maintenance matters and implement risk control measures, and providing sufficient technical support for laboratory activities.

All academic staff will be required to familiarise themselves with laboratory safety issues, and safety precautions have been included in lab manuals. Staff members have also been informed of reporting procedures and reminded to follow them in case of accidents.

University vice-president (administration) and the chairman of its environmental health and safety committee, Andy Lee Shiu-chuen, said in the press release that the school would continue to monitor the health of the students, all of whom have recovered and returned to class.

Mr Lee said a letter would be sent to the academic 'in order to prevent the occurrence of a similar incident'.

'He will also be required to supplement relevant knowledge and skills by attending seminars and training workshops in the coming year,' he said, adding that the university would strengthen laboratory safety by maintaining an adequate staff-to-student ratio and by increasing safety inspections and audits.

A university spokeswoman said it could not elaborate and neither the dean nor Mr Lee would provide further comment.