Johnson, Robert R. (ed.) / The Wisconsin engineer
Volume 54, Number 4 (January 1950)
The way we see it, pp. 26-32 ff.
A Guest Editorial by Fritz Kohli The Wilson Burned in Lab Mishap Robert B. Wilson, a junior mech- anical engineering student, received second and third degree burns on his scalp, arm and hand in an acci- dent which occurred in the foundary laboratory on Dec. 14, 1949. Wilson and another student were removing a sixty-five pound metal ladle, containing molten iron, from a furnace while their instructor was tapping the cupola The accident occurred when another student dipped a sampling ladle, containing traces of moisture, into the large ladle. The moisture flashed into steam, causing a violent eruption of the molten iron which splashed Wilson on the head, arm and hand. The student with the sampling ladle was also hit in the eye by the metal but was protected from injury by the goggles he was wearing. Resisting the natural impulse to drop his end of the ladle upon be- Waga ing burned, Wilson held on until the ladle could be set down without spilling its contents. By this time his hair and shirt were ablaze and the molten iron had caused deep burns. By his action, Wilson prob- ably saved himself and those around him from much more serious injury if not death. Had the molten iron spilled on the concrete floor, the violent reaction between the two would have caused the entire con- tents of the ladle to be splattered with considerable force. This accident brings to attention a rather serious need for financial protection for the students and in- structors engaged in laboratory op- erations involving some degree of danger. In this case the student was bed- ridden for three days, suffered par- tial immobility of one arm for at least a month, and partial immobili- Bob Wilson after accident. (Foton photo) ty of his other hand for about two weeks. Under the present laws, the state and university have no provision for insurance or financial compensation for injuries incurred in laboratories except by special legislative action on each individual case. The in- jured student's only recourse to this would be to take court action against the person directly responsible in the laboratory at the time of the accident. This would in most cases prove highly unsatisfactory. If the case was decided against the plain- tif, he would merely incur addi- tional expense, and if decided for plaintif, the financial burden would merely be shifted to someone to whom it would be equally hard to bear. In many cases, students are in- jured due to their own inexperience, which could legally be defined as negligence. This would leave them entirely without a chance for com- pensation for serious and costly in- juries. Legislative action providing for a university wide compensation pro- gram for injuries incurred in lab- oratories and similar hazardous places of instruction would be one answer to this situation. If the state would not accept the responsibility for injuries incurred under these conditions, perhaps a group insur- ance plan provided for by laboratory fees would be possible. By what ever means it is accom- plished, the important thing is to provide adequate protection for those persons working under the hazardous conditions which are in- herant in most all laboratories. THE WISCONSIN ENGINEER We See It 26
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