A research technician is being treated for minor chemical burns and shock after an explosion took place in Western’s Robarts Research Institute yesterday afternoon.
According to Keith Marnoch, director of media and community relations for Western, the explosion, which was contained to one lower-level lab, was reported to Campus Community Police Services shortly before 3:00 p.m.
“Emergency services got a report of an explosion at the Robarts Research Institute and evacuated and secured the building,” Marnoch said. “I don’t have a name, but a Western research technician was treated on the scene by EMS and they’re now being treated in emergency over at the University Hospital.”
Shortly after the technician was taken to hospital, Western’s Hazardous Materials Team and the London Fire Department were inspecting the lab and building to make sure there were no hot spots present, which could cause a fire to flame up again. Marnoch explained the other main concern was the atmosphere of the building, but a photo ionization test was completed and determined the air quality in the building is back to normal.
“They’ve done a complete sweep and the air is clean. I’ve also been told the heating, ventilation and air conditioning system is being flushed as well to make sure that there’s nothing in the air or in the building,” he said.
Anne Shatkin, an alumni and development officer for the Schulich School of Medicine and Dentistry, was in the building at the time of evacuation.
“I was on the telephone when the fire alarm went off,” Shatkin said. “We all just grabbed our things and left the building.”
Although some bystanders outside the building were unaware of what had happened, a building supervisor stopped by and provided more details about what happened to the group of people Shatkin was standing with. Those who were evacuated were allowed in to retrieve their belongings at approximately 4:30 p.m.
In Shatkin’s years of working at Western, she has never witnessed an incident like this, or been evacuated from a building because of similar circumstances.
“One thing I have to say is Western has been very good here about making sure we’re all trained in WHMIS, and that we’ve all been through safety procedures in case anything like this does happen,” she said. “We never feel unsafe—we always know what the process is. There is a lot of security and signage around to make you feel safe.”
According to Marnoch, there is no damage estimate at this time.