From: "Wilhelm, Monique" <mwilhelm**At_Symbol_Here**UMFLINT.EDU>
Subject: [DCHAS-L] UG Lab Safety for Students
Date: Tue, 3 Jun 2014 00:43:15 +0000
Reply-To: DCHAS-L <DCHAS-L**At_Symbol_Here**MED.CORNELL.EDU>
Message-ID: 1109037139E1524980CF9CBEB247661867F52BC1**At_Symbol_Here**

Hi Stefan,


I work at what used to be considered a small undergraduate teaching university.  We now have over 8,000 students with about 100 Chemistry or Biochemistry majors at a time.  We enroll between 800-900 students in our labs per year.  We recognize that we have a flawed academic safety system that we are working really hard to improve.


Do they attend the same training offered by EH&S for all lab workers?

No, we do not offer all students training through our EH&S dept.  In fact, I am the only one who does go to all of their training.  I then have to incorporate the pertinent points from them in to our departmental-specific training sessions.


Do their names get entered in the same database?

No, but I do keep record of all training in my dept.  What is taught during coursework is not tracked.


Does your institution offer a full day introductory lab safety seminar?

Yes and no.  I have proposed this multiple times to my faculty.  Just one day (4 hour lab period) at the beginning of the semester where all sections of a lab course would meet at the same time to get the same safety information.  I do offer a full day safety seminar for all of my undergraduate student lab teaching assistants.  These are my employees who work in different sections all of our labs for all of our instructors, as well as paid or unpaid student research assistants and stockroom prep assistants.  They often are the ones responsible for ensuring that some safety skills are passed on in our labs.


4.       Does your institution offer a one credit course for UGs in lab safety?

We used to offer one when I was a student here.  But, it was not effective.  First of all, there was not a good textbook at the time.  Second, it was a junior-level course, which we decided was a little late to offer a meaningful safety program (more than half of their labs were complete by then).  We, as a faculty, agreed on developing a safety culture within our student body by teaching safety as part of every lab experience.  However, I do not think that this has been done well, either.  There is no accountability at this time for any of our lab faculty to teach any particular skill to the lab students, only for lectures.  Believe it or not, I get better continuity in covering particular skills in the labs from our adjuncts than our long term people.  Hopefully, this will change soon as we have developed a lab curriculum committee that is working to have a unified experience put into place for all of our first semester gen chem labs starting next year.  We will work on up in our courses from there.


I have provided more details on the training in my department below if you are interested.


Monique Wilhelm

Laboratory Supervisor/Adjunct Lecturer/Chem Club Co-Advisor

Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry

University of Michigan-Flint

Flint, MI 48502



This response comes from an email that I sent to Ralph sometime this past semester:


I have also been trying to determine the most efficient delivery of safety content.  I was just promoted to my position about 3 years ago and had to build a safety program from the ground up.  Not only do I struggle with the OSHA lab safety training, but also with building better undergraduate safety curricula for our chem/science majors.  I have broken my safety training into 4 categories,  based on how urgent it was to develop the training for that particular group:


1.  Training for Undergraduate Lab Teaching Assistants (they are our upper division undergrads working with direct supervision of a faculty member)

2.  Training for Undergraduate Research Assistants

3.  Safety curricula for all of our students

4.  Training for our faculty (most have PhDs in Chemistry and are insulted that they are required to do training)


In the past, I have required a traditional instructor-led lecture style training for all student TAs with a quiz at the end and is followed up with occasional skill-based/case study/role play based on the job coaching where I stop and ask them a question about something that could happen in their lab that day.  Sometimes it is as simple asking if they see anything wrong with a label, whether or not a group of chemicals needs to be segregated or require special storage, or to demonstrate the proper use of the fume hood.  This led to similar training for our Research Assistants with project specific training given by the individual faculty member.  However, we are still struggling with documenting the lab specific training.  Lately, I also find myself sending out emails faculty and students about the lab incidents that I learn about from the DCHAS-L emails.  One of them came with perfect timing.  I had just sent out an email about an incident that occurred from inappropriate waste disposal and asked my students to think about what should have been done to prevent the explosion and exposure that ensued.  That very week, one of my student assistants, suddenly aware of the importance of checking the waste areas multiple times throughout the lab, noticed that a waste container in our organic lab was getting warm.  He removed the lid to avoid an explosion and called me immediately.


My EHS dept has recently acquired an online based training for us to use by Safety Skills.  But, I feared going this route as I see the need for a more hands-on training program.  However, this was introduced at a great time as the new GHS system required training for everyone.  I now have documented online training for my faculty and paid student assistants(watching online video and reading material followed up with quizzes) for the new EHS system.  This was great as I did not get the pushback that I had been seeing from this group.  However, we will not be doing this for all of our undergrad lab students, just employees.  This year, I do plan to try a multi-faceted approach that will include all Student Assistants and Faculty completing online training for content with the online quizzes using this system.  This will be followed up by a half day training competency program where the 20 or so students will demonstrate skills such as cleaning up spills, checking gas cylinders for leaks prior to use of an instrument, etc.  As an educator, I think that the competency demonstrations will be much more effective than quizzes to see if they are truly getting what is being explained.  I will then continue with my coaching strategy to keep up these skills as the semester progresses.  The coaching moments will give me a good idea of whether or not the information is sticking with them.  The timing should be about the same as what I was currently doing with the training being much more effective.


I am going to change my focus to our course safety curricula over the summer.  This one is going to be a bigger challenge as I have to come up with something that will allow us to add it in easily and with consistency  without additional work for the faculty.  I am thinking that online training is going to play a huge role in this one.  I am pushing for the use of the Hill & Finster book as it also has some great online resources (quizzes and such) but am having difficulty with the faculty not wanting the students to pay for another textbook, even though it is designed for use over 4 years of curricula and is paperback.


Best Regards,


Monique Wilhelm

Laboratory Supervisor/Adjunct Lecturer/Chem Club Co-Advisor

Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry

University of Michigan-Flint

Flint, MI 48502






Undergrads in teaching labs (non-research) are required to be supervised by trained TA's, research faculty, or lab supervisors who are trained.  The TA's and lab support staff are required to take the full training in addition to review of a safety manual specific to the course.  The UG's must review the safety information for the class and for each weekly lab session.  We do not track UG training in a database but they do document both the course and weekly lab safety review.



Youngstown State University:

1.)    Chemistry students who conduct research and prepare chemicals for teaching labs undergo separate training from EOHS.  This training is about 1.5 to 2 hours.  Retraining is required each year.

2.)   The records are kept in chemistry, not EOHS.

3.)   We do not offer a full day training but would like to offer such a seminar.

4.)   A one semester hour course is not currently offered, but the University is developing such a course.

Please see the link below for more information about the Chemistry Department at Youngstown State University.



Frankie Wood-Black:

We are working on developing our system for a 2 year school.  What we did in the spring was all students in chemistry laboratory were required to complete the safety laboratory - which did include the new OSHA GHS information and sign a statement which was kept.



Campbell U

Stefan, I am the lab manager of the chemistry and physics department at a small, liberal arts university and specifically coordinate the general chemistry labs (24-ish sections, 18 students per section). I train the general chemistry and organic lab instructors annually, and they in turn train the students each semester. (Higher level students are trained by the faculty overseeing the course.) The training includes safety equipment location and operation, GHS, proper lab attire, how to read an MSDS, etc. More specific hazards are covered the day of lab. I currently have students fill out a safety worksheet after they've been trained on lab check-in day. This worksheet is worth a lab grade for them, and I keep it on file until the end of the semester. I also have them sign a record of student safety training, which I keep on file indefinitely with a record of any and all personnel/faculty I train. These records are kept in my department.  Eventually I would like to have a 0.5 to 1 credit course on lab safety for our chem/biochem majors specifically. Currently, most of our students are either biology/pre-professional  or pre-pharmacy majors (separate departments), and only need 2 years of chemistry. For training these students, I feel our current method works well. As our chemistry major population grows, however, the program will need to be modified.



University of Missouri-Columbia:

I teach the unit operations lab for chemical engineering. So most of my students have taken general and organic chemistry (although I am not sure what safety training they have for those courses). For my course, I have a safety manual that we go over the first day of lecture which also includes rules for being in the lab. The next week, they take a test over the manual and must not miss more than 2 questions or they have to retake it after going over what they missed. They can enter the lab after passing the test and after signing a sheet at the end of the safety manual stating they have read, understood, and agree to abide by the safety rules of the lab.  The test and signature sheets I retain for my records.

On the first day of lab, they tour the lab so they know the location of safety shower, eyewash station, fire evac routes, etc. We also have several safety lectures including the NFPA and new GHS systems, SDS, many CSB videos, etc. At the end of the semester, they take a second safety test over what we have learned. I have to admit the question I am most disappointed with on this exam is one that has a map of the lab and asks them to circle and label the location of the safety eye wash and safety showers and most get a least one of them wrong. In future semesters, I'm going to make sure they realize the importance of knowing these locations.

I also have them answer what they learned about safety that they did not already know. A lot answer they did know how dangerous dust or compressed gas can be.




1.     No, unless the course instructor requires it. (I don't know if any do.)

2.     Yes, if they take our online general lab safety training.

3.     No

4.     No; however, we do have a one-credit course on lab safety for grad students in Engineering. Undergrads are allowed to take that course.

Illinois is a pretty large school.




So I'm guessing this is just for undergrads who are taking lab classes for credit?  For us (small, undergrad only liberal arts college), we have the faculty do a powerpoint presentation on lab check-in day.  I made the presentations, tailored to each lab (we run about 8-10 different chem classes, and so we have a different powerpoint for each one - highlighting the hazards they may come across in that particular class).  By the time they graduate, they have seen all of them at least once.  Plus we do train undergrad research students (summer students that is).  That is done in a full day thing led by myself.  For all, we just log who is there (I have a database that I use, but that can be done many ways) and what powerpoint they saw (name of the file, who presented it).




This topic probably has come up before, but I am interested in how other colleges & universities address UG lab safety training.  This would not be for  UGs in research labs, who may be getting a stipend or credit. 

1.        Do they attend the same training offered by EH&S for all lab workers?

2.       Do their names get entered in the same database?

3.       Does your institution offer a full day introductory lab safety seminar?

4.       Does your institution offer a one credit course for UGs in lab safety?

 Thanks for the responses.  Let me know if you are a large school or small college- that may impact  answers.


-Stefan Wawzyniecki, CIH, CHMM

University of Connecticut


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