Crisis communication

Lab accident injures staff

The incident happened in the lab of the Salzburg University yesterday in the afternoon. A doctoral candidate was in the process of drying Tetrahydrofuran (THF) with natrium. However, he forgot to open the distillator‘s outlets that help to equalize the pressure. When the doctoral candidate returned two hours later, the excess pressure was so massive that a stopper was catapulted out of the machine. The solvent THF reacted with the air causing an explosion which ignited the natrium. The explosion injured two lab staff members and severely damaged the room.

The incident is now under investigation by the police. Salzburg University has not given a statement yet. (online July 8, 2019)

What to do

  • In case of injury, high-level person (e.g. dean) should respond
  • Show empathy
  • Do not take responsibility (do not indicate that safety guidelines were not up to standard)
  • Initiate an internal investigation
  • Work with the police department
  • Ensure that action is taken to prevent such an incident from happening again
  • Remove concerns of ongoing hazard (“Everything is under control”)
  • Contact legal advisor (liability / litigation case)
  • “Who is guilty?” – prepare an answer for that question

Example of public statement

We regret to inform you about the recent accident that happened at our University. We will provide any support necessary for the injured and their families. The situation is now under control with no further risk of chemical exposure, and medical care has been provided to everybody affected. We will initiate an internal investigation to determine what led to the accident, furthermore, we will collaborate with the police and responsible authorities and provide every necessary information they need. We will do our best to prevent such an accident from happening again, and will update the public with any new developments about the case.

Crisis communication

The hidden cure

A team of researchers at the University of Salzburg made a startling find in 2015: A well-known rheumatoid arthritis therapy, a powerful anti-inflammatory drug, appeared to reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease by 64 percent. However, after several months of testing, they opted against publication of its data because of its doubts about the results. They did share the data privately with at least one prominent scientist, but outside researchers contacted by The Post believe they also should at least have published their data, making the findings broadly available to researchers. “It would benefit the scientific community to have that data out there,” said an assistant professor of medicine at Johns Hopkins. “Whether it was positive data or negative data, it gives us more information to make better informed decisions.”

Public statement

Our scientists are committed to the highest level of science in order to improve the scientific knowledge for the benefit of the entire community. The data have not been shared yet with the scientific community because other tests need to be performed in order to obtain reliable results. The disclosure of data that is not robust could lead to confusion and mislead other scientist. We are currently testing the drug in our laboratory and as soon as we will have robust results a publication will be released. Moreover, we are open to collaborate with the scientific community for the welfare of the population.

Crisis communication

Cannabis in my drink?

The Consumer Protection Agency (CPA) in Germany holds a press conference, announcing that they have found cannabinoids in a presumably vegan drink and issues a warning for that product. The CPA claims that the company BIOMETRICS has used nanotechnology as a means to infuse the product with cannabinoids.

Mr. Huber, head of CPA: “My primary concern is the potential for non-target effects. Nanoparticles can permeate into many different types of tissues and you can’t really control that.” He also cited an OECD report on opportunities and risks with nanotechnologies outlines some of the uncertainties with the technology, warning that it is unclear whether nanoparticles can pass from a pregnant woman’s body into an unborn child.

Public statement

We want to apologise for any concern raised by the report of trace cannabinoids within our bio-drink. We will engage an external panel of experts to fully investigate the allegations followed by comprehensive report. We will also collaborate with the CPA in order to investigate concerns.It should be fully understood that the health of our consumers is our first and top priority. We will keep consumers up to date with further findings as we get them.

Friendly provided by  gaisberg communications

Photos: (1–3) © Patrick Daxenbichler