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Research labs are more dangerous than they look

When thinking about unsafe workplaces, construction sites and factories may immediately come to mind. However, there is another workplace in which many workers suffer injuries. Research labs can be dangerous, especially if the lab workers are exposed to dangerous chemicals or animals.

A recent survey discovered that even though 86 percent of scientists consider their labs safe, nearly half of the survey's respondents had experienced an injury at work. These workers reported animal bites, chemical burns, and needle pricks, among other types of injuries.

While workers in any workplace are at risk of being injured in some way, certain workplaces seem to be more risky. If managers recognize the dangers that are present in the workplace, they may have a responsibility to their workers to improve the safety conditions in the building.

For instance, additional safety training could improve the safety of a workplace. However, if the management does not take the time to properly train their employees, the employer could potentially be held liable for a worker's injury.

Even though the lab workers included in this survey may not have viewed their injuries as serious issues, their injuries could become more serious later on. For instance, if a scientist who works with rats on a regular basis is bit by a rat during an experiment, he or she may not consider the rat bite to be serious. However, if the rat bite becomes infected and leads to a more serious condition, the worker may consider whether his or her employer could have done something to prevent the rat bite.

Employers can take steps to eliminate the potential for workplace accidents. Workers who believe their workplace could have created a safer working environment may want to look into filing a lawsuit against their employer.

Source: Nature, "Safety survey reveals lab risks," Richard van Noorden, Jan. 2, 2013

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