University fined £400k after caffeine experiment overdose
29 Jan 2017
The University of Northumbria at Newcastle has been fined £400,000 following a botched lab experiment in which two students overdosed on caffeine.
The students, who both survived, suffered from dizziness, vomiting and rapid heartbeat after drinking a solution containing 100 times the amount of caffeine that should have been taken as part of the experiment, Newcastle Crown Court heard last week.
Dialysis was required to rid their bodies of the levels of caffeine.
An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) revealed that the protocols set out for the experiment were not followed.
“The instructions were to use 200mg tablets but as they were not available the students were provided with caffeine in a powdered form. This created a situation where the students miscalculated the amount of powder to use and overdosed the two volunteers,” HSE said.
HSE inspector Cain Mitchell said: "The university completely failed to control the risks during these experiments and two young students were made seriously ill which resulted in intensive care treatment for a number of nights.
“All organisations who engage in experiments where people are given chemical substances should ensure that the risks are fully identified and strict procedures are devised and followed to ensure that the experiments can be undertaken safely.”
University of Northumbria pleaded guilty to breaching Section 3 (1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 and was fined £400,000 and ordered to pay costs of £26,468.22.
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