I think that there are no easy solutions. It is easy to come up with “big picture” answers, but there is significant work involved in implementing these great ideas. As you are aware, laboratory safety is a big issue within CSHEMA and at the annual conference last month in Portland, there were quite a few excellent presentations on what people are doing to improve laboratory safety. CSHEMA members can access these presentations at http://forum.cshema.org/page/2012-technical-session-presentations. (Not a member? Go towww.cshema.org and join.) DivCHAS has worked with CSHEMA to publish some of the presentations, so there is a good chance that some of these presentations will get publicity through that mechanism.
Here are some of my thoughts on laboratory safety: It is a logistical issue to ensure that everyone is trained at a large university. I think we do a pretty good job of making sure everyone has general laboratory safety training through the use of a general on-line course. Enforcement has a place; for example, we check training records when we do laboratory inspections. But general safety training is not enough. For one, that training has to be retained and used by the individuals. This is challenging enough, but even more challenging is the need for job-specific training and how much is enough. We all agree that training is essential, but the devil is in the details. Each institution and each PI (hopefully in collaboration) need to make some decisions on what is appropriate training for them.
Accidents are often caused by factors other than lack of training. Traditionally, safety has been an add-on activity; however, I think most all of us would agree one needs to give constant attention to safety—that is, safety needs to be integrated in with everyone’s activities all the time.
Researchers are looking to us safety folks to provide guidance and tools on how to conduct safe research. I don’t see the job ever being complete as we continually strive to do better. In addition to safety manuals, guides, and fact sheets, I would like to come up with a handful of “tips” that PIs can use with their groups that will help them make a good start on having safe laboratories. So far I have identified two ideas I really like. The first one is to foster safety discussions in their research groups by having each laboratory worker present the three most hazardous issues they see with their research, share why they are of concern, and discuss possible methods of mitigating those hazards. This approach can be used by most anyone and is almost always a good discussion starter. The second idea is that every laboratory worker should have at least one “safety buddy” who holds them accountable and looks after them for safety and other laboratory related activities. Besides avoiding the risks associated with working alone, I think most of us work better and take safety more seriously when we have someone watching use and we are watching out for someone else. I would like to come up with a few more “tips” and then use the group of tips in a laboratory safety campaign. A third idea I am working on is how best to share lessons learned from campus incidents and significant incidents that occur elsewhere.
Safety metrics is a wholenother issue, but this is enough for now.
From: DCHAS-L Discussion List [mailto:dchas-l**At_Symbol_Here**MED.CORNELL.EDU] On Behalf Of ACTSNYC**At_Symbol_Here**CS.COM
Sent: Tuesday, August 07, 2012 3:31 PM
Subject: Re: [DCHAS-L] UC - LADA Agreement
So I say yet again, we should only be discussing one thing: How to make safety personnel and their programs more effective. For example, since lack of training was an issue in the UCLA case, how are people planning to get everyone trained and regularly updated? An untrained person is a school's weak link. If nobody wants to enforce attendance, I'd be interested in what alternate strategies people are using and how is that working out.
Look, if everyone just wants to share glowing words about the life and mission of academic safety people and not even discuss making changes in these hallowed programs, fine--I'll back off and wait for the next accident. But I'm not blind. I can see that in most of the schools in which I work the programs are not working. And it is especially dangerous in the art and theater departments--appalling actually.
I hoped to see some direction for improving programs coming from the cooler heads in the science departments that could be applied to my endangered art consitutents as well. I'm waiting in vain. Remember, the Yale School of Drama had two student deaths and the Yale science shop had one before UCLA's recent accident. And that's just Yale. What's it going to take?.
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