Life in the Lab: Understanding Accidents With Mary Beth Mulcahy

When a serious safety incident occurs in a lab, investigators from the U.S. Chemical Safety Board are called in to help figure out what went wrong. Sound like something out of an episode of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation? Mary Beth Mulcahy, Ph.D, an investigator at the U.S. Chemical Safety Board, says her job isn’t like what you might see on TV. The inves1tigations are methodical, but they also include a significant human element, such as interviewing witnesses.

Mulcahy says she never knows what a day on the job may bring. She could be in the field collecting evidence or looking for an outside expert to help with the investigation. She could be back in the office, pouring over data to understand why an accident occurred. On occasion, the job calls for her to meet family members or attend funerals related to accidents under investigation.

Ultimately, those human connections are what drive Mulcahy to excel. “You’re analyzing a chemical, but you’re not analyzing the chemical for the data. You’re analyzing the chemical for the family members who’ve lost people,” she says.

Watch Mulcahy share her experiences and offer advice for people who might be interested in working for the CSB:

Watch more videos on the American Chemical Society YouTube page.

If you have comments or questions for the author of this post, please e-mail: Axial@acs.org.