Safety culture

Safety culture in university labs needs support from all levels: report

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Washington – A comprehensive approach is needed to improve safety culture in chemical research labs at universities, according to a report released July 31 by the National Research Council.

The report, which cites tragedies such as a 2008 explosion that killed a 23-year-old research assistant in a chemical lab at the University of California, Los Angeles, states that academia can do more to promote lab safety. It called on universities to collect data on near misses and develop different stages of training to represent initial, ongoing and periodic refresher sessions.

Other recommendations:

  • Presidents, chancellors and provosts should show that safety is a core value by discussing the topic “frequently and publicly.”
  • Vice presidents for research and deans should make sure their institutions only conduct research that can be performed safely.
  • Principal investigators and department chairs must demonstrate safety by wearing personal protective equipment, ensuring quality training and promoting dialogue on safety.
  • Researchers can support a safety culture by serving on safety committees and touring other laboratories for insights.
  • Environmental, health and safety staff should go beyond compliance by partnering with administrators, faculty and researchers to promote a safety culture.