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Johnson, Robert R. (ed.) / The Wisconsin engineer
Volume 54, Number 4 (January 1950)

Kohli, Fritz
The way we see it,   pp. 26-32 ff.

Page 26

A Guest Editorial
  by Fritz Kohli
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-
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
  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
  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
  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-
  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.
We See It

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