Date: Thu, 6 Aug 2009 11:15:43 -0400
Reply-To: Ralph Stuart <rstuart**At_Symbol_Here**UVM.EDU>
Sender: DCHAS-L Discussion List <DCHAS-L**At_Symbol_Here**LIST.UVM.EDU>
From: Ralph Stuart <rstuart**At_Symbol_Here**UVM.EDU>
Subject: Re: 3 Re: [DCHAS-L] OSHA Lab Standard Effectiveness
In-Reply-To: <26521_1249476217_n75ChbfZ008737_177942FF-0405-45E5-B9E6-14EDC1834A81**At_Symbol_Here**>

> >I suspect that fundamental change in safety culture is sorely  
> needed in the majority of academic labs and their inhabitants - and  
> this is just not supported by many academic administrations who see  
> safety as just an add-on rather than an integrated part of learning  
> and research involving human beings.
> >I would be interested to hear what others think about this aspect  
> of safety culture and accountability.
I agree that there is a cultural disconnect between the academic  
laboratory culture and external expectations of safety culture and  
accountability. I think that one reason for this is the major increase  
in the amount and diversity of research labs over the last 20 years  
without a concomitant increase in administrative support (although  
there has been a significant increase in, for example, EHS support for  
labs, I don't believe that it has kept up with extent of lab work and  
the increase in regulation of hazardous materials and other oversight  
issues that affect labs).

As the UCLA report pointed out, information about the kind of work  
that's going on in these labs is not well organized centrally, so the  
support needs of the laboratory workers, whether in terms of facility  
capabilities, or regulatory compliance assistance, or management of  
common equipment, is often lacking. And when these needs are not met,  
I suspect that it's easier to accept the accountability gaps that  
others have pointed to.

Add to this the scientific tradition of independent research within  
academia and the history of scientific heros who have suffered health- 
wise for their work and there are many cultural messages that confuse  
the safety attitude of laboratory workers. In this respect, I'm  
heartened to hear that the UK seems to have made progress through its  
mandated risk assessment process at the lab level.

- Ralph

Ralph Stuart, CIH
Environmental Safety Manager
University of Vermont
Environmental Safety Facility
667 Spear St. Burlington, VT  05405

fax: (802)656-5407

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