Yes, Peter, but now we are talking about the right subject. Every IH text book and somewhere in one of the appendixes to some OSHA regulation is the advice that the safety person has access to and reports directly to top management, that is, to someone who has full authority to do whatever needs to be done without consulting others.
People charged with safety also must have the right, without fear of reprisal even if it turns out they were wrong, to stop work immediately and unilaterally when they have good cause think there is an immanent danger.
Then there is enforcement of the rules that are well-known and/or posted. These must be enforced by anyone who is "in charge" of a lab or area at the moment which can be a faculty member or technician. An example is hurling students or other faculty members out of labs when they aren't wearing a lab coat or safety goggles.
Safety often needs a rapid response. And it always needs a consistent response. So each school should be busy figuring out how to change the command structure and the culture so this can happen at all levels and at all times.
In a message dated 8/3/2012 5:30:50 AM Eastern Daylight Time, pzavon**At_Symbol_Here**ROCHESTER.RR.COM writes:
Even in industry, the safety people generally do not have the authority to require, direct, shut down, etc. Safety is typically a staff function, there to advise management. It is the line function - managers, supervisors, Directors, VPs, etc who have the authority to enforce.
The problem for academia is that academic departments beyond the PI are not organized as line operations. For these purposes, that may have to change, with more explicit authority (and responsibility) cascading from President or Provost to Department Chair to PI and individual researcher. That will not be easy, despite recent events.
But what do I know? I've been away from academia for nearly 30 years.
Peter Zavon, CIH
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