Death at Yale University a Sad Reminder for Shop Safety Vigilance
A Yale student’s tragic death serves as a warning to us all concerning shop safety.
Yale University is situated in New Haven, CT, just down the road from our office in Newtown. So the story of an undergraduate’s death in a shop accident this past week hit close to home in more ways than one. The student, Michele Dufault, was using a metal lathe in a shop where chemistry students and professors are able to make instruments for experiments. Evidently, her hair was caught by the lathe and pulled her toward it. An autopsy by the state of Connecticut medical examiner has determined that she died by “asphyxia due to neck compression.” By all accounts, Dufault was a safety conscious student, and all students who used the shop were required to complete a semester long “shop course” before they could use it. Students and professors who knew her were shocked by the circumstances.
You can read Yale Daily’s coverage here for a more detailed account. And I do ask that you read about the incident before commenting below. Any death in a shop is a terrible tragedy, but the death of a bright young person is especially heartbreaking. Please keep in mind that no one (or at least none of us) knows exactly how this happened, so let’s not assume it was because of foolish behavior on her part.
The fact of the matter is, it’s all too easy for even the most experienced woodworker to let his/her guard down from time-to-time. Maybe you’re tired after a long day but just want to make that one final cut, or perhaps you just don’t feel like taking that extra moment to set up a safer jig–whatever the situation might be, this young woman’s death should serve as a poignant reminder of why vigilance and consistency are so important in the workshop.