I agree with you on addressing what to do if an experiment unexpectedly "run's over" and not starting new experiments during the "overtime" period. If we are going to define acceptable work hours, we should certainly advise people on how to wrap things up safely, and what to do if work run's overtime.
I don't feel any of us are trying to shoehorn everything into one box, which is why you will find many "buddy system" clauses, to take into consideration such things as poor time management or simply experiments that took longer than expected.
But I do agree completely that we need to include "what to do if…" policies/guidance as well as setting the work hours.
I have found the hour restrictions in this thread to be quite interesting. I just wanted to chime in from the "user" side of the policies that folks have described or posted. I'm a former professor and my undergrad and grad school years were full of late night activity.
I think the reason a lot of the policies have "sketchy" or loose descriptions is because the nature of research is such that you can't shoehorn everything into one box. Few academic laboratory research projects ever finish in the amount of time that you think. There are some processes that you just can't shut down when 5 PM or 8 PM or the appointed Official Hour is reached. Even with good planning and an experiment you've done before, researchers routinely take a lot longer to finish tasks than originally planned - ask any grad student how many times they have had to call/text their significant other that they wouldn't make dinner/date/whatever on time.
I fear that a time that appears set in stone by definition or enforcement language will encourage folks to rush through finishing up, thereby increasing the chances of an accident. And, in my personal experience, most accidents happen when you're cleaning up, so hurrying up at the end when you're "all done" is even more dangerous.
If you do have specified "regular" or "preferred hours" then you also need to come up with policies that reflect the realities of research. It should address what to do if an experiment unexpectedly takes you beyond the normal hours, explain that no new experiments/procedures should be started once you're in the "overtime" period etc. In other words, some performance-oriented language rather than black and white one size fits-all for this one aspect.
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From: "Kim Auletta" <kim.auletta**At_Symbol_Here**STONYBROOK.EDU>
Sent: Monday, September 10, 2012 11:49:15 AM
Subject: [DCHAS-L] Academic Facilities: Undergrads in research labs - restrictions?
We are working on updating our Chemical Hygiene Plan. I'm clarifying/strengthening the "working alone" section. I've separated the requirements into 4 groups - HS students, undergrads, grads and above and clinical fellows (MDs in labs). When working with hazardous materials, I've restricted HS students to constant supervision, UG to someone else (fully trained) within lab/earshot, grads+ can work alone w/ PI approval & clinical to "buddy system" (someone who will check on them, but they don't have to be in lab).
I'm getting some comments from PIs on the draft policy about the undergrads that is surprising.
I'd like to know what other universities have in writing for "working alone" policies, and specifically for UG students conducting independent research in labs with hazardous materials (chem, bio, rad). I'm looking for something more than the "working alone should be avoided" statements - we all have that & know its an unsafe condition & industry would never allow it.
I appreciate your insight & guidance as usual!
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