Date: Sat, 28 Aug 2010 09:39:02 -0400
Reply-To: DCHAS-L Discussion List <DCHAS-L**At_Symbol_Here**LIST.UVM.EDU>
Sender: DCHAS-L Discussion List <DCHAS-L**At_Symbol_Here**LIST.UVM.EDU>
From: "Robin M. Izzo" <rmizzo**At_Symbol_Here**PRINCETON.EDU>
Subject: Re: Safety Training


I don't think any of us in academia that our situation "merits 
permitting untrained folks to perform tasks that require training."   
That's my point - we have a structure and policies in place, but he 
reality is that the decentralized nature of a university makes it easier 
to have some people in the lab that have not attended this required 

You say that nobody should be permitted to work in the lab until they 
can show proof of training.  I agree.  But think about it - who is 
permitting people to work in the lab?  Who is the gatekeeper?  For the 
most part, it is faculty and if that faculty member does not make it a 
priority to check on training - there's the disconnect.

We are constantly impressing upon faculty the importance of training.  
We send reminders several times a year.  When we inspect a lab, we talk 
to the people working in the lab and check their training records.  Our 
level of compliance continues to improve, but it is not perfect.  We 
share stories of incidents that occur on our campus and elsewhere, 
illustrating the consequences.  We go to faculty meetings, we make 
things as simple as we can for them.

Further complicating things is that so many of us use the term "lab 
worker".  Most of the lab population in academia don't see themselves as 
"workers".  It is an academic pursuit.  We don't differentiate between 
students and staff when it comes to training requirements, but we have 
to be very careful of semantics.  If I say that anyone who works in a 
lab must attend training, the person who did not attend training will 
explain that he or she did not think it applied to them.

The people in these labs tend to be young.  This generation of students 
ignores e-mail and uses Google to answer their questions.  It is a 
challenge just making them aware of the training requirements.  

Please don't confuse frustration with giving up and accepting the status 
quo.  It's a major challenge and we have been chipping away at it.  I 
think that the best thing we have going for us is that our training 
program is well-executed and has a very positive reputation.   But the 
fact is, it is "different" than a lab of research professionals and our 
level of control is simply not the same.  We are not giving up or giving 
in and, frankly, every time I hear someone outside of academia suggest 
that it can't be so complicated, I find it difficult not to feel 
insulted, as if we don't agonize over the issue and don't care.

Robin M. Izzo, M.S.
Associate Director
Environmental Health and Safety
Princeton University
262 Alexander St.
Princeton, NJ 08544

-----Original Message-----
From: DCHAS-L Discussion List on behalf of ILPI
Sent: Fri 8/27/2010 5:52 PM
To: DCHAS-L**At_Symbol_Here**LIST.UVM.EDU
Subject: Re: [DCHAS-L] Safety Training
I worked in four major research university labs from 1985 through 2000 - 
in virtually every possible capacity: undergraduate researcher, graduate 
student, postdoc, professor, and I understand very well the 
complexities/nuances/conflicts.  You've summarized them nicely for those 
who may not be aware, thanks.

It's your first line that caught me there - "If only it were that 
simple".   That's my point.  It *should* be that simple.  Academia is 
bound by the "this is the way it has always been done" and "we can't 
change the system" mindsets (probably inherited from university 
bureaucracies).  Not only with respect to safety and lab procedures, but 
rules in general.

There is no good reason why it CAN'T be that simple.  When you get 
employed, you head off to the university employment office and they have 
to get your W-9 (citizenship) and W-4 (tax withholding) etc. set up.   
You can't work until they have those.  Period.

"There is not a single system for entering the laboratory environment" - 
that's my point, too.  There should be.  And it starts with a simple 
requirement that you don't perform lab work until you have a piece of 
paper saying that you are cleared to work in the lab.  No PI or 
supervisor can accept someone into the lab without safety training.  
Period.  It's a really good incentive to get your training done.

We have all kinds of OSHA and workplace rules regarding training 
requirements - no one drives the forklift without being certified.  No 
one draws blood without BOP training.   Would anyone here like have 
their kidney dialysis treatment performed by someone who is planning on 
"getting around to" blood-borne pathogen training next week?  So why 
would something that ridiculous be acceptable in a lab that uses 
t-butyllithium?  As a former professor, I'm ashamed that chemistry and 
EHS departments have the audacity to claim that their situation is 
"different" and merits permitting untrained folks to perform tasks that 
require training.

Safety is the first and foremost concern in *every* laboratory 
operation.  Period.  You relax that rule, bend it, or break it and the 
consequences (as we have seen) can be fatal.  Reinforcing the importance 
of safety by *requiring* safety training before *any* work begins 
telegraphs the role of safety and is an important first step (of many) 
that academia needs to take to embrace the safety culture mindset.

Rob Toreki

Safety Emporium - Lab & Safety Supplies featuring brand names
you know and trust.  Visit us at
esales**At_Symbol_Here**  or toll-free: (866) 326-5412
Fax: (856) 553-6154, PO Box 1003, Blackwood, NJ 08012

On Aug 27, 2010, at 4:54 PM, Robin M. Izzo wrote:

		If only it were that simple. an outright ban on laboratory work until 
the worker has completed safety training.   In a way, we have that, but 
it is so much more complicated and I honestly believe that only those 
who work in academia can appreciate that.
	First, let's talk about WHO these laboratory workers are.  There are 
several types, here are a few:
	-          Faculty, who rarely actually work in the lab, but are 
ultimately responsible.
	-          Staff - it is a true luxury for a lab to have a professional 
staff member.  This is a rarity.
	-          Post-doctoral associates - in the lab for months or years.  
For the most part, they have spent nearly all of their time in academic 
teaching labs or university research labs where the "safety culture" 
varies from institution to institution and from department to 
department.  They are making very little money and don't see themselves 
as employees.  They are the prodigal stepchildren of the university.
	-          Graduate students - technically, they are not employees, but 
in most cases, the veteran grad students will have at least some 
leadership responsibilities in the lab.  Depending on their degree, they 
could be there for 6 months to 6 years.
	-          Visiting researchers - may be in the lab for weeks or months 
or years, depending on the project.  May officially be an employee or 
student of another institution
	-          Undergraduate students - may be in the research lab for an 
academic project, as a volunteer, as a part-time employee
	-          High school students - may be in the research lab for an 
academic project, may volunteer for "experience", may be a part-time 
	Now, how do they get here?
	-          Faculty - spend weeks or months preparing for start-up.  
Depending on how the university is set up, their hiring may be separate 
from staff hiring.  At Princeton, the Dean of Faculty hires faculty and 
lab staff, while Human Resources hires admin staff.  They have different 
rules, procedures, etc depending on which group hires them.
	-          Staff - may be hired through the Dean of Faculty (apart from 
the Human Resources side of things) or through the same route as a 
standard employee.  May arrive any time of the year.
	-          Post-docs - may arrive any time of the year, usually by 
arrangement with the department
	-          Graduate students - usually arrive at the beginning of a 
semester or during the summer
	-          Visiting researchers - may arrive any time of the year, 
usually by arrangement with the department
	-          Undergraduate student - may start working in the lab any 
time and if not paid, nobody outside the lab might even know they are 
associated with the lab
	-          High school students - may arrive any time of the year, but 
usually during the summer.  If paid, perhaps HR knows.  Many will 
volunteer and it could be that only the principal investigator knows 
that they are associated with the lab.
	So, already things are complicated.  There is not a single system for 
entering the laboratory environment.  Thus, for most universities, it is 
the responsibility of the principal investigator/faculty to ensure that 
all have been through training, among many, many other  
responsibilities, including teaching, writing, mentoring, etc.
	At Princeton, it is mandatory for anyone working in research 
laboratories to attend the 3 hour laboratory safety training provided by 
EHS.   That is a University Policy and there are consequences for 
non-compliance.  It applies to faculty, staff, post-docs, students, 
visitors, paid or unpaid.  Our degree of compliance varies:
	-          Faculty - 100% compliance.  EHS receives reports from the 
Dean of Faculty of all new faculty hires.  EHS contacts the department 
to see if they will have a research lab.  If they will, we contact them 
and tell them of the requirement for Laboratory Supervisor briefing - a 
one-on-one training session that focuses on their role as a supervisor 
and introduces them to the safety culture.  If they give us a hard time 
about making arrangements, we will escalate from the Chair to the Dean 
of Research.  So far, in 10 years we have never had to do that.
	-          Staff - there are not many and we have very good compliance
	-          Graduate students - excellent compliance - our training is 
part of their orientation
	-          Undergraduates - very good compliance - our training is part 
of the curriculum for most science and engineering majors, but 
non-majors may be an issue
	-          Post-docs and visiting researchers - variable.  Truly 
depends on how much the department knows of what is happening in the 
labs and the how well the PI is paying attention.
	-          High school students - recently banned, but we had excellent 
compliance because there was a formal program for review and approval of 
minors in the lab and they could not begin work until they attended 
	Lab Safety Training is instructor-led classroom training.  We offer it 
at least once a month.  We simply don't have the staffing to do much 
more than that, but in February, June and September, when most are 
beginning their stint at Princeton, we conduct numerous sessions.  If 
someone is not able to attend before they are scheduled to begin in the 
lab, then they can work in the lab only if someone in the lab who has 
been trained is willing to take responsibility for them and they are 
supervised at all times by a trained individual.  They must attend the 
next session.
	As for undergraduate teaching labs, Teaching Assistants and instructors 
are given safety curriculum to provide to all students, and safety is 
written directly into the procedures.
	I don't think Princeton's approach is unique, yet we still don't have 
100% compliance.  We take it very seriously and are constantly looking 
for ways to improve, but it is an uphill battle, not because people 
don't care and not because people complain, but because universities are 
incredibly decentralized and it is unrealistic to expect that every 
faculty member is going to be vigilant about it.  If they are not, the 
decentralized nature means that there may not be enough additional 
checks and balances.
	That's my 2 cents (given the length, maybe more like $2).
	Robin M. Izzo, M.S.
	Associate Director, EHS
	Princeton University
	609-258-6259 (office)
	Leap and the net will appear. - Zen Saying
	When you stumble, make it part of the dance. - Unknown
	Save a tree...please don't print this or any document unless truly 
	From: DCHAS-L Discussion List [mailto:DCHAS-L**At_Symbol_Here**LIST.UVM.EDU] On Behalf 
	Sent: Thursday, August 26, 2010 10:50 AM
	To: DCHAS-L**At_Symbol_Here**LIST.UVM.EDU
	Subject: Re: [DCHAS-L] Safety Training
	Academia needs to wake up and have a simple outright ban on all 
laboratory work until the worker has completed their mandatory safety 
training.    We don't allow folks to start driving and then "get around 
to" getting their driver's licenses, do we?
	I agree that most EHS departments have enough grief being seen as an 
arcane enforcer rather than safety/productivity partner in academia, 
however this one simple rule needs to be written in stone so it isn't 
unwritten in blood.
	In my 4 years at MIT, not one person ever said "I can't wait to start 
work but have to take my training class first."   They just started in 
the lab.  Now, that was back in the days when the web was still a 
twinkle in Tim Berners-Lee's eye and things have likely improved to a 
fair degree.  However, the attitude of "work now and safety when I get 
around to it" is still rampant at most academic institutions and is a 
direct result of failure to promote safety culture.   
	I conjecture that this failure of academic institutions to teach and 
promote safety culture in their curriculum and department is the root 
cause of the vast majority of accidents at such institutions.  Training 
should start on day 1 with the formal presentations, and on day 1 the 
message should be that safety is an integral part of planning every 
single laboratory operation (not just experiments, either).  Safety 
planning/procedure should be written into the laboratory notebook of 
every undergraduate student (and for that matter, graduate student and 
postdoc).  Only then can our system start graduating students competent 
in safety culture - students who can then go on to industry without 
culture shock or into academia with the seeds of long-overdue change.
	Rob Toreki
	PS: One other issue at the major institutions is that it is simply 
impossible for the PI of a 20-person group to be on top of all safety 
matters in their operation.  Authority is delegated or diffused to the 
point that folks are basically winging it in many cases.  I know people 
who saw their research advisor perhaps once every two or three weeks and 
they were lucky to talk to him or her for 20 minutes.  Those previous 
moments will focus on one's thesis work results from the past 2 weeks 
and plans for the coming 2 weeks are the reason for the meeting; safety 
will never, *ever* come up.  But this digresses into another 
conversational thread.
	Safety Emporium - Lab & Safety Supplies featuring brand names
	you know and trust.  Visit us at
	esales**At_Symbol_Here**  or toll-free: (866) 326-5412
	Fax: (856) 553-6154, PO Box 1003, Blackwood, NJ 08012
	On Aug 26, 2010, at 9:53 AM, Dan Herrick wrote:


	As others have noted, the approach that works well in industry won't 
work as well in academia.  If the people not attending training are 
employees of the academic institution (facilities staff, maybe?), you 
may be able to implement some of the performance-based consequences 
whcih have been suggested.  For faculty, undergrads, grad students, and 
post-docs, this is not realistic.  
	We have web-based training for a number of modules (Haz Waste, General 
Chem, etc) and we require documentation of Lab Specific training every 
year.  All training is also recorded in a system where we can track 
metrics by PI and follow up on incomplete training.  For continually 
non-compliant folks, I try all the usual channels - multiple emails, 
reminders of when live courses are given, attempts to give live courses 
to an entire research group at a group meeting all at once, etc.  
Usually people complete training eventually, if only because they are 
sick of my repeated emails.  Sometimes it comes down to individual 
visits with individual PIs - they may not be actively "avoiding" 
training , they may just legitimately be extremely busy.  If one "sells" 
it right, this can come across not as "You didn't do your training!" but 
"How can I help you ensure the safety of your laboratory in the most 
effective way?"  In the long run, the latter is more helpful than the 
	A lot of it does come down to the safety culture that is created within 
the academic institution.  If EHS is viewed as a helpful partner in 
ensuring that research proceeds in an effective manner, and if there is 
buy-in from University leadership and Departmental leadership regarding 
established safety programs, then "escalating" the continually 
non-compliant to the next level of "management" is straight-forward and 
should produce results.  If EHS is viewed as merely an ancillary part of 
the campus that enforces regulatory codes or as a group which tends to 
impede research being done, or if top level folks at the University are 
not interested in or engaged in safety, the task is much harder.
	Good luck.

	Dan Herrick
	EHS Coordinator
	Massachusetts Institute of Technology
	Mechanical Engineering Department, Research Laboratory of Electronics,
	Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics, Civil and Environmental 
Engineering Department



		Date: Wed, 25 Aug 2010 16:01:19 -0600
	From: ldamon**At_Symbol_Here**FVCC.EDU
	Subject: [DCHAS-L] Safety Training
	To: DCHAS-L**At_Symbol_Here**LIST.UVM.EDU

	I am wondering how others address employees "blowing-off" safety 
training.  There always seem to be the few employees that invariably are 
no shows for the trainings.


	Thanks in advance for your replies.


	Laura Damon

	Coordinator of Instructional Safety and Chemical Hygiene

	Flathead Valley Community College



Previous post   |  Top of Page   |   Next post

The content of this page reflects the personal opinion(s) of the author(s) only, not the American Chemical Society, ILPI, Safety Emporium, or any other party. Use of any information on this page is at the reader's own risk. Unauthorized reproduction of these materials is prohibited. Send questions/comments about the archive to
The maintenance and hosting of the DCHAS-L archive is provided through the generous support of Safety Emporium.