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MIT fined $125k for shipping unlabled hazardous materials

MIT has paid the Federal Aviation Administration a $125,000 fine for failure to properly label hazardous materials shipped through Federal Express that resulted in a fire on Aug. 25, 2009.

The fine was negotiated down from the FAA’s proposed $175,000 fine and was paid last month, FAA spokesman Jim Peters said.

MIT has agreed to host a 1-day symposium on FAA shipping regulations as part of the settlement, according to William C. VanSchalkwyk, the managing director of MIT’s Environmental Health and Safety department.

EHS had stepped up outreach efforts after the 2009 fire, and VanSchalkwyk said the symposium “shows that FAA believes MIT has a good program.” Local hospitals, universities, and biotechnology companies will be invited to the event, which will be targeted at shipping departments and safety departments, but not at individual researchers.

The fire occurred after a CSAIL researcher shipped 33 devices containing lithium batteries via FedEx, without labelling them as hazardous. The box caught fire on a conveyor belt at FedEx in Medford, Mass.

The FAA proposed the $175,000 penalty in a letter to MIT dated July 26, 2011 and announced it in a press release dated Sept. 2, 2011. The $125,000 negotiated penalty was paid in November.

—John A. Hawkinson