Rather quietly, the new CPT Guidelines and Evaluation Procedures for Bachelor’s Degree Programs appeared on the CPT website recently. The Committee on Chemical Safety weighed in on various stages of proposed revisions with the intent to strengthen the statements related to safety. Comments in the Guidelines about Safety are mostly contained in Section 7.3 on pages 17-18. One measure how the section about safety has changed is a simplistic count of “must,” “need(s) to”, and “should”.
2008 Guidelines: “should” appears 4 times.
2015 Guidelines: “should appears 1 time (although this is a preface to a bulleted list of six items; so perhaps this is 6 “shoulds”); “need(s) to” appears twice, (this still seems less rigorous than “must” to me); and “must” appears 4 times.
I consider this to be stronger language overall. And, you can read the items that get these various verbs at: http://www.acs.org/content/dam/acsorg/about/governance/committees/training/2015-acs-guidelines-for-bachelors-degree-programs.pdf
There was much discussion in the past three years about mandating a department safety committee. George Wilson (of Kansas University, and a former CPT member and current CPT consultant) vigorously championed this idea. The CPT explained in their February 2015 memo why they chose not to require this. See: http://www.acs.org/content/dam/acsorg/about/governance/committees/training/2015-guidelines-letter.pdf
Overall, a good step in the right direction, I think.. In my judgment, there is still room for some improvement with regard to some details and also a complete re-visioning of how safety fits into a college curriculum. My synopsis is: Safety is not just a “student skill” but encompasses an entire sub-discipline of chemistry that includes models/theories and a host of information and concepts that well exceeds the ability (skill) to clean up a spill or put out small fire. And if you immediately think that “cleaning up a spill” or “putting out a fire” is not a trivial skill but rather are actions that require thought and knowledge to accomplish safely, then you know what I mean. Golly, I (and Bob Hill) could write a book about all of this! J The next CPT revision probably will not happen for another 6-7 years and I look forward to making the case that “Curriculum” (Section 5) and “Student Skills” (Section 7) are concepts that should not be artificially, and inappropriately, separated (as I privately argued to CPT about 18 months ago).
David C. Finster
Professor, Department of Chemistry
University Chemical Hygiene Officer
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