Sheri Sangji 1985-2009: A tragic & preventable death

No research is worth a person's life

On the 16th of January 2009, a 23 year old research assistant, Sheri Sangji, lost her life to severe burns suffered in a UCLA chemistry laboratory fire. Sheri went to work on the 29th of December. She suffered second and third degree burns over 40% of her body from exposure to tert-Butyllithium, a chemical that combusts on contact with air. Sheri spent the next 18 excruciating days in intensive care, fighting for her life. She never got the chance to come home.

This accident should not have happened. We want to know what events led up to the fire, how and why it happened, and we want to prevent it from happening again. Sign now to support our efforts.

BREAKING NEWS: UCLA takes legal action to reduce liability, and formally claim no responsibility for Sheri's death. Please sign to help justice be served!

Cal/OSHA classified the case as a 'serious violation'. However, Cal/OSHA's own definitions make clear that the UCLA laboratory committed a 'willful violation' of safety procedures and standards. Unless the violations are classified as 'willful', it is rare that the District Attorney will take up the case, and that UCLA and the Principal Investigator will be held fully accountable for this loss of life.


It is now up to us to bring this case to the District Attorney's office and get it the attention it deserves. Sign now to support our efforts.

 

 

Help us bring to light the circumstances, decisions, and regulatory failures that resulted in a loss of life:

 

  • What were the events leading up to the fire?
  • Why were people working in a lab that had not been approved by an internal safety check? 
  • Why was Sheri asked to come in and work when the campus was closed and UCLA was unable to respond to emergencies in full capacity? 
  • Why were UCLA employees allowed to work with dangerous chemicals in a lab without wearing appropriate protective gear, despite it being a legal requirement for UCLA to ensure that they were? 
  • Why were Harran lab members not trained in emergency protocol?


With this petition we state:

1. We are outraged at the death of this talented young woman.
2. We would like to see a full investigation into the issue by the District Attorney.
3. We would like to see all those involved to be held accountable for their actions or lack thereof.
4. We would like a review of the legislation to ensure it is a strong enough deterrent so that this does not happen again.


We want to make sure justice is served and that human life is given its proper value.

We want to make sure that this never happens again.


Please support our efforts by attaching your signature to the letter below. The letter will be sent to our California Senators, Barbara Boxer and Diane Feinstein, as well as our Governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger and to the Cal/OSHA Standards Board.

Sign now.

 

To find out more about Sheri:

www.sherisangji.com


Other links with this story:

http://www.latimes.com/la-me-uclalab5-2009may05,0,7130412.story%20

http://sciencecareers.sciencemag.org/career_magazine/previous_issues/articles/2009_05_01/caredit.a0900054
We the undersigned would like to bring to your attention the death of a 23 year old research assistant, Sheharbano 'Sheri' Sangji on the 16th of January 2009. Sheri died from burns suffered in a laboratory fire at UCLA from exposure to tert-Butyllithium. The Cal/OSHA report finds three serious violations, yet leaves many questions unanswered. We want the District Attorney to investigate.


The Facts:
UCLA did an internal check and found more than a dozen safety violations in Patrick Harran's laboratory on Oct 30 2008, and instructed that they be fixed by Dec 5 2008. Records show that during the inspection on Dec 30, 2008, a day after the fire, most of the deficiencies were still present.

As per the Cal/OSHA website 'Employers who use any substance listed as a hazardous substance in Section 339 of Title 8 of the California Code of Regulations, or subject to the Federal Hazard Communications Standard (29 CFR 1910.1200), must provide employees with information on the contents on Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS), or equivalent information about the substance that trains employees to use the substance safely.' Sheri was not supplied with this training.


The Law:  
OSHA's definition of 'willful violation' encompasses a situation where an employer has received notification of previous violations and has not acted to correct said violations.(Title 8 of the California Code of Regulations Sec. 334. (e)).  As documented by Cal/OSHA, UCLA administration and the Principal Investigator, Patrick Harran, were informed of several safety violations and failed to correct them.  Cal/OSHA's own definitions make clear that the UCLA laboratory committed a 'willful violation' of safety procedures and standards. However, unless the violations are classified as 'willful', it is rare that the District Attorney will take up the case, and that UCLA will be held fully accountable for this loss of life.


Unresolved questions:

Laboratory safety is a matter of public concern. The events leading to the fire are not clearly discussed. Was Sheri trained by UCLA or the Principal Investigator, Patrick Harran, to use this procedure? Was this the best method to handle this substance? Is the amount of this dangerous chemical she was transferring within the legal limits of the state? Were the laboratory members trained in emergency protocol? There has been no discussion on the conduct of those involved after the fire and during the investigation. As citizens and taxpayers, we would like to know what happened.

With this petition we state:

1. We are outraged at the death of this talented young woman.
2. We would like to see a full investigation into the issue by the District Attorney.
3. We would like all those involved to be held accountable for their actions or lack thereof.
4. We would like a review of the legislation to ensure it is a strong enough deterrent so that this does not happen again.

As residents of the state of California, we urge our elected officials to demand an investigation.

Sign Petition

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