From: "Secretary, ACS Division of Chemical Health and Safety" <secretary**At_Symbol_Here**DCHAS.ORG>
Subject: [DCHAS-L] 2 more Re: [DCHAS-L] UC - LADA Agreement
Date: August 8, 2012 11:27:31 AM EDT
Reply-To: DCHAS-L <DCHAS-L**At_Symbol_Here**MED.CORNELL.EDU>
Message-ID: <A690CBF7-6A63-4D13-840F-3A176B12F855**At_Symbol_Here**>

From: Allen Niemi
Subject: Re: [DCHAS-L] UC - LADA Agreement
Date: August 8, 2012 9:28:27 AM EDT

I'm afraid I'm 100% in Monona's corner on this. I've worked in basic research both in industry (one with a good safety culture) and academia. With respect to safety, there is one major difference between the two. Both hire young, inexperienced, scientists and engineers to do laboratory research but industry provides them with management and staff to make sure they don't do anything stupid -- and they learn something about safety as their careers advance. Academia does not do this and the older faculty are no wiser in the ways of safety than they were when they first arrived. There are also some similarities -- industry and academia both run the full spectrum from poor safety culture to good (although I firmly believe there are far fewer academic institutions that would score well on any quantitative safety culture test).

I know there are some schools out there with better programs than others because I can see it in the faculty we hire from various institutions. Some of them seek me out as soon as they arrive. Others tell their grad students to dump hazardous waste in the trash and hide the evidence from me. I can tell you without doubt, that type of behavior would result in immediate termination by my industrial employer.

How many of you can honestly say that your institution would have immediately fired a new rising star faculty member that they just broke their budget to hire? How do institutions go from bad culture to good? In the old days, it was simple. Someone finally enlightened the CEO on the cost of poor safety management or they had some major disasters (think Bhopal or BP Deepwater Horizon). I'm not waiting for the latter to happen because the odds are too close to zero in academia. One or two spectacular fatalities might make a school uncomfortable for a while, a la UCLA, but -- at least for schools with poor safety leadership -- this is not enough to turn an academic institution around. And the cost of injuries is not all that large a number for academic institutions (not to mention the non-profit aspect). Its hard to overstate the driving force of profits or underestimate the lack thereof in a nonprofit org.

Eventually, having to compete with other companies that watch their injury expenses like they measure product quality creates an industry-wide environment that lags way behind in academia. Also the culture of total academic freedom, which is interpreted to mean that faculty are totally in charge of their lab (despite their lack of safety knowledge), has to change before any meaningful safety improvements can be expected. Can this be accomplished through mutual respect and cooperation? Sure, just give tenure and full professor rank to the top safety staff.

And of course, these are my opinions and are not necessarily shared by my employer.

From: ACTSNYC**At_Symbol_Here**
Subject: Re: [DCHAS-L] UC - LADA Agreement
Date: August 8, 2012 9:41:43 AM EDT

Robin, You noted that: "In the UCLA case, we don't really know if the young person had been told to wear a lab coat, not to wear synthetic materials, what to do when clothing was on fire or that a different method was warranted for handling this material. UCLA did not do a good job of documenting training, so the assumption is that she was untrained."

Well, I disagree. There was good reason to believe she was never even in a training session and the school did not have procedures for handling these materials in place to train her on if she was in a training session. Please go back to the LADA. Sections 5 & 6 explain what was missing in the training and in UCLA's program and section 7 says what must now be put in place. But I don't even want to argue about 5 & 6. I want to get past what was missing at UCLA and start a comprehensive discussion of what we should be putting in place.

OK If we accept your incorrect premise that Sangji was fully trained but the training was just not documented, what are people physically doing to better document and track training? Can we type a student's name in a computer base and see everything they have attended and/or done on line and when they did it? Are all the outlines of training subjects, tests scores, etc., also there? Or have you got some better way to do this?

If you say training is complicated because the students come from diverse backgrounds, what are you physically doing to identify and bridge those gaps? Are trainings provided in different languages? (This also is a CalOSHA and OSHA requirement.) Are there intake interviews or questionnaires that identify deficiencies in previous experience or knowledge to be addressed? Or what?

Are you developing videos on special hazards like the one discussed in the LADA? How are you identifying the subjects that need video treatment? Or what?

If you went to SCHEMA as you say and got all kinds of great ideas for improving your program, what are a couple of these? How are you implementing them? Maybe we can all learn and even help.

All I'm asking is please, please don't tell me any more that we're all working hard on it in a positive way. And don't tell me anymore about how you are changing the safety culture so everyone believes that safety is important. Terrific. I believe you.

Instead, tell me how you are translating all that hard work and cultural good will into physically getting the knowledge and skills into the heads of these diverse groups of people so they can actually work safely and respond to emergencies. Good attitudes are not equivalent to skills and knowledge.

Oh dang. I'm through. I know when I'm beat.


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