Since I started the discussion, I thought it best if I share what I've written so far. I also don't think we can prohibit work after a magic hour and I think the lab staff should plan on working after a set time, so I've mentioned that in the procedure. I can't include it as an attachment, so sorry for the lengthy cut & paste & I've skipped some of the less important details. (I'll send it as an attachment if you email me directly)
High School Students: Never permitted to work alone in a research lab, even with non-hazardous materials. They must always have a mentor/supervisor present. The Supervisor, at a minimum, must be a Graduate student working as an RA, TA or GA. This person must have received all EH&S required safety training pertinent to the work that the supervised persons will be performing. The Supervisor must understand the hazards and risks of the student's project and reviewed the written SOP/safety protocol. The Supervisor must be approved by the PI. Minors can only work during "building hours". Review the Minors in Research Labs policy for additional information: http://www.stonybrook.edu/ehs/lab/minors.shtml
Undergraduate Students: Never permitted to work alone in a research lab with hazardous materials. Someone else with EH&S required safety training must be in the lab or adjacent to the lab and be able to check on their safety.
Graduate Students, Postdoctoral Fellows, Research Scientists, Technicians and Principal Investigators: These are considered full time laboratory workers, and laboratory training is integral to their professional training.. They have completed all EH&S training related to their laboratory work. They are permitted to work alone in a research laboratory after approval by the PI and following the lab=E2=80™s safety protocol for working alone.
Clinical Students, including Medical Students, Residents and Clinical Fellows: Since their laboratory training is only a portion of their professional training and work intermittently in a research lab, they are not permitted to work alone in a research lab with hazardous materials. They must use the "buddy system".
1.1. Buddy System: A "buddy system" establishes regular, routine checks on personnel working alone, such as every 15 - 30 minutes, to ensure no accidents have occurred. This could be accomplished by physically walking to the room where the lab worker is located. A system of visual checks ensures there are no problems and/or determines if help is needed.
1.2. Working Alone: A worker is considered as "working alone" if the individual is working by his/herself such that assistance is not readily available should some injury, illness or emergency arise. Alone is interpreted as being out of visual contact with another person for more than a few minutes. It includes working in physical isolation, e.g. as the sole occupant of a laboratory or during a site sampling activity, where no other person is in the vicinity, i.e. within a short direct range or earshot. It is possible for a worker to be on the same floor of a building or even in the same general area as others, yet be working alone. It can occur during normal working hours as well as in the evening, at night or at weekends.
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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