Date: Sun, 29 Aug 2010 11:01:08 -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: List Moderator <ecgrants**At_Symbol_Here**UVM.EDU>
Subject: Follow up Re: [DCHAS-L] Safety Training

From: ILPI <info**At_Symbol_Here**>
Date: August 28, 2010 8:59:24 PM EDT
Subject: Re: [DCHAS-L] Safety Training


I'm not trying to paint EHS departments as not caring or clueless or caving.    I'm not "outside" academia - I'm a former insider, a professor who actually had such good relations with his EHS department that I went into business with one of the them:   Back in the day, I was one of a handful or faculty (campus-wide) that ever showed any proactive (rather than reactive) initiative with respect to safety and I know the battles that have to be fought.   I have the greatest respect for EHS/OHS - it's what my company is about.  And I'm a big cheerleader for what's being done at various departments - note the Further Reading Links in our MSDS HyperGlossary; many point to academic EHS Department writeups, Princeton included.  I've seen too many horrid academic lab accidents, and grow frustrated every time I hear of another obviously preventable injury or death.

These occur because safety culture is generally absent from universities as well as their curriculum.   The first step in that direction, a "no course, no work, (and let's add no paycheck)" rule could, in fact, be implemented quite easily - the same SAP systems that cover I-9, W-4 and other employee paperwork are the perfect way to do it.  It is simple, but the bureaucracy and fiefdoms will, of course, resist that change.   But that change needs to come - whether it is raised as an agenda item at whatever safety committees exist and works its way up through there or perhaps the University Senate.  Or maybe just two motivated people - someone in EHS and the University's risk manager - bam, it's an insurance/liability issue, not a lab issue, so the academic departments have no ammo to push back against it.    And there is always a state legislature - let's see what happens in CA after the UCLA incident.

As far as safety culture in the curriculum - the next shove in that direction will have to come from the ACS.   Make it part of the accreditation process.  Safety analysis, risk management, etc. are simply not being taught as essential skills in chemistry.   In the meantime, safety culture can at least be introduced in the EHS training courses.

Robin, I have no doubt you guys are going all you can and more, and I never stated otherwise.   Our goals are the same - to ensure that everyone gets training and reduces accidents.  But recent events (TX, UCLA) illustrate that a safety revolution in the academic laboratory is long overdue.   While (the collective) we have improved over the years, it's time to switch from plugging leaks and patching holes to building a new safety infrastructure - we have a lot of good building materials (training courses etc.) but need a much better foundation (safety paradigms, enforceable policies, safety culture) that will make those training materials even more effective.


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