The annual CHAS Open Meeting will be held 12 August 2021 at noon Eastern time via Zoom. The agenda book for this meeting can be downloaded below. If you would like to attend this meeting, please contact Ralph Stuart at firstname.lastname@example.org for the Zoom address.
Designing laboratories that allow for safe and efficient research requires input and collaboration between researchers, architects, engineers and lab planners. Michael Labosky of MIT, Ellen Sweet of Cornell University, and Melinda Box of N.C. State University discussed the challenges of designing and operating labs from multiple perspectives, using concrete examples from the real world. This ACS Webinar is moderated by Environmental Safety Manager Ralph Stuart of Keene State College and is co-produced with the ACS Division of Chemical Safety and the ACS Committee on Chemical Safety. The webinar was recorded and is available to ACS members at http://www.acs.org/webinars Information from the webinar is provided below. If you have any follow up questions about this webinar, let us know at email@example.com
References cited during the webinar include:
- Laboratory Design, Construction, and Renovation Participants, Process, and Product 2001 from the National Academies Press (PDF free to download)
- Guidelines for Laboratory Design: Health, Safety, and Environmental Considerations, Fourth Edition 2013, Author: Louis J. DiBerardinis, Janet S. Baum, Melvin W. First, Gari T. Gatwood, Anand K. Seth
- ASHRAE guidelines for Classification of Laboratory Ventilation Design Levels (PDF free to download)
ACS Chemical Health & Safety special issue articles currently available:
Comments from the audience:
- Working with Undergraduate Students is really a challenging task for us. The information shared through the webinars are really helpful and beneficial for us.
- We are planning a new lab, it was just great!
- Very good overview of the challenges associated with the design and maintenance of acceptable air handling for laboratories. The speakers were exceptionally knowledgeable, and this presentation was very useful.
- This webinar is a new window of safety and security in labs
- This was definitely for the inexperienced in lab safety design
- This was an excellent and very relevant webinar. Re-consulting the notes and, more importantly, the recorded version will be useful as a significant amount of relevant information was given verbally and could barely be noted down (lack of time!). Maybe this can be corrected by adding more point-form keywords and statements on slides would help following the talks.
- This was a great learning experience, I work indirectly with the labs almost every day. Our ventilation systems are top tier but it’s great to understand some of the design aspects and procedural steps to take in order to create an effective and comprehensive system. I may not use this information daily but it’s a great refresher.
- Someone in the chat had a great suggestion for chemical inventory.
- Showed me I am on the right track and pointed out some key things that I can further look into to make my lab safer
- It was very informative and a very good overview.
- It was beneficial to hear from peer institutions, especially with respect to ventilation. During the Q&A, the questions pertaining to core safety topics for the various levels if chemistry curriculum was also interesting.
- I was provided with a great deal of additional resources to consult as we begin planning a revamping of our existing high school chemistry laboratory.
- I hope to put in practice the knowledge acquired in laboratory design for safety and sustainability
- I have benefited immensely from the little I was able to grab
- I am working in a lab that has no such facilities and most of the time we ignored it as it was not in our hands. But here in this webinar, I have learnt many safety measures. I think this makes a difference in the safety measures of our lab.
- I am planning to start a electroplating set up for my research work so definitely it has benefited me.
- Excellent information from qualified professionals w/ real world experience and helpful insight.
- El webinar me sirve como soporte para dar recomendaciones en la construcción del laboratorio de la CDMB que se está realizando en estos momentos en Bucaramanga – Colombia. Soy el jefe de ese laboratorio y debo estar preparado para emitir conceptos o aportar en la toma de decisiones para el laboratorio.
- As EHS professional it is refreshing to see that lab users get more educated and aware of the lab ventilation issues and challenges
- As an EHS professional, it primarily reinforced information that I already knew. However, the presenters offered good tips or ideas as well.
Speakers at the webinar included:
- Mary Beth Mulcahy, Manager in the Global Chemical and Biological Security group at Sandia National Laboratories, Editor-in-Chief of ACS Chemical Health & Safety
- Michael B. Blayney, Executive Director, Research Safety at Northwestern University
- Monica Mame Soma Nyansa, Ph.D. Student, Michigan Technological University
- Kali Miller, Managing Editor, ACS Publications
The session closed with a question-and-answer session moderated by Kali Miller, an ACS Publications Managing Editor, where all three panelists were able to share more insights and advice.
During the 2020-21 academic year, an average of between 15 and 20 people gathered to review and discuss academic papers relevant to lab safety in academia.
During the fall, we followed the traditional model of a presenter who led the discussion after the group was encouraged to read the paper. In the spring, we began a two-step process: first a table read where the group silently collaboratively commented on an abbreviated version of the paper in a shared google document one week and then had an oral discussion the second week. The second approach enabled much more engagement by the group as a whole.
The spring papers we discussed were primarily focused on graduate student led Lab Safety Teams and included (in reverse chronological order):
- Engaging Senior Management To Improve The Safety Culture
- Constructing Consequences For Non-Compliance
- The Joint Safety Team at the University Of Minnesota, Twin Cities: A Model for Student-Led Safety
- Anaphylaxis Induced By Peptide Coupling Agents
- Student-Led Climate Assessment Promotes A Healthier Graduate School Environment
- Lessons Learned From The Creation And Development Of A Researcher-Led Safety Organization At The University Of Chicago
- Starting And Sustaining A Laboratory Safety Team (LST): A Chas Discussion
The fall papers were focused primarily on the idea of safety culture and included (in reverse chronological order):
- Exploring Definitions of Safety Culture
- Dreaming Big & Learning Well
- Improving Safety Culture Through the Health and Safety Organization: A Case Study
- Compassion Fatigue
- Catching Them at It: An Ethnography of Rule Violation
- Scut Work and Safety Roles in the Lab
- A Manifesto for Reality-Based Safety Science
We will pick up the Journal Club again in the fall of 2021.
We are interested in looking at the psychology of safety with 2 things in mind:
- (1) papers with well-done empirical studies, and
- (2) studies that investigate an issue that is present in academia.
It is likely that papers that are investigating the psychology of safety have focused primarily on industry (construction, airplanes, etc), so it will be important to identify the specific phenomenon they are investigating and be prepared to translate it to academia. Questions about the CHAS Journal Club can be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org
Nanoparticles are an area of increasing research interest in many fields. However, the risk data related to the safety, health and environmental impacts is still limited. How should lab researchers approach these uncertainties?
Speakers: Tilak Chandra, University of Wisconsin-Madison / Katie Kruszynski, University of Wisconsin-Madison / Markus Schaufele, Northwestern University
References cited in the webinar:
Donaldson and Poland, Nanotoxicity: challenging the myth of nano-specific toxicity, Curr. Opin. Biotechnol., 24 (2013), pp. 724-734;
Gebel et al. Manufactured nanomaterials: categorization and approaches to hazard assessment Arch. Toxicol., 88 (2014), pp. 2191-2211;
Nel et al., Toxic potential of materials at the nanolevel, Science, 311 (2006), pp. 622-627); Steve Oldenburg, Nanosafety: Conclusions From a Decade of Nanotoxicology Research (2017)
OSHA Fact Sheet: Working Safely with Nanomaterials https://www.osha.gov/sites/default/files/publications/OSHA_FS-3634.pdf
Steve Oldenburg, Nanosafety: Conclusions From a Decade of Nanotoxicology Research, nanoComposix, (2017) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X-HiWAjqYgg
Nanotechnology, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) https://www.cdc.gov/niosh/topics/nanotech/default.html
•3D Printing with Filaments: Health and Safety Questions to Ask (2020)
•3D Printing with Metal Powders: Health and Safety Q. to Ask (2020)
• Continuing to Protect the Nanotechnology Workforce: NIOSH Nanotechnology Research Plan for 2018 – 2025
Dekkers, Susan et al; Safe-by-Design part I: Proposal for nanospecific human health safety aspects needed along the innovation process, NanoImpact, Volume 18, April 2020
Janeck J.Scott-Fordsmand et al, A unified framework for nanosafety is needed, Nano Today, Vol 9, I5, 2014, Pages 546-549 https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1748013214001030
Chandra, T.; Zebrowski, J. P.; McClain, R.; Lenertz, L.Y. Generating Standard Operating Procedures for the Manipulation of Hazardous Chemicals in Academic Laboratories. ACS Chem. Health Saf. 2021, 28, 1, 19-24.
Jaya Borgatta, et. al.; Copper Based Nanomaterials Suppress Root Fungal Disease in Watermelon (Citrullus lanatus): Role of Particle Morphology, Composition and Dissolution Behavior. ACS Sustainable Chemistry & Engineering, 2018, 6 (11), 14847-14856.
In addition, the Committee on Chemical Safety’s list of references on nanosafety can be found on its web site.
The Art & State of Safety Journal Club, 05/05/21
Excerpts from “Engaging senior management to improve the safety culture of a chemical development organization thru the SPYDR (Safety as Part of Your Daily Routine) lab visit program”
written by Victor Rosso, Jeffery Simon, Matthew Hickey, Christina Risatti, Chris Sfouggatakis, Lydia Breckenridge, Sha Lou, Robert Forest, Grace Chiou, Jonathan Marshall, and Jean Tom
Presented by Victor Rosso
The full paper can be found here: https://pubs.acs.org/doi/10.1016/j.jchas.2019.03.005
The improvement and enrichment of an organization’s safety culture are common goals throughout both industrial and academic research. As a chemical process development organization that designs and develops safe, efficient, environmentally appropriate and economically viable chemical processes for the manufacture of small molecule drug substances, we continually strive to improve our safety culture. Cultivating and energizing a rich safety culture is critical for an organization whose members are performing a multitude of processes at different scales using a broad spectrum of hazardous chemical reagents as its core activities. While we certainly place an emphasis on utilizing greener materials and safer reagents, the nature of our business requires us to work with all types of hazardous and reactive chemicals and the challenges we face are pertinent to any chemical research organization.
In our organization of approximately 200 organic and analytical chemists[a] and chemical engineers, we have a Safety Culture Team (SCT) [b][c][d][e][f][g]whose mission is to develop programs to enhance the organization’s safety culture. To make this culture visible, the team developed a key concept, Safety is Part of Your Daily Routine, into a brand with its own logo SPYDR. To build on this concept, we designed a program known as the SPYDR Lab Visits shown in Figure 1. The program engages our senior leadership[h][i] by having them interact with our scientists directly at the bench in the laboratory[j][k][l][m] to discuss safety concerns. This program, initiated in 2013, has visibly engaged our senior leaders directly in the organization’s safety culture and brought to our attention a wide range of safety concerns that would not readily appear[n][o][p] in a typical safety inspection. Furthermore, this program provides a mechanism for increased communication between all levels of the organization by arranging meetings between personnel who may not normally interact with one another on a regular basis. The success of this program has led to similar programs across other functional areas in the company.[q]
A key safety objective for all organizations is to ensure that the entire organization can trust that the leadership is engaged in and supportive of the safety culture. [r][s][t][u]Therefore this program was designed to (1) emphasize that safety is a top priority from the top of the organization to the bottom[v][w][x][y][z], (2) engage our senior leadership with a prominent role in the safety conversations in the organization, (3) build a closer relationship between our senior leaders and the laboratory occupants and (4) utilize the feedback obtained from the visits to make the working environment better for our scientists. The program is a supplement to and not a replacement for the long standing laboratory inspection program done by the scientists in the organization.
The program involves assigning the senior leaders to meet with 2–5 scientists in the scientists’ laboratory. There are approximately 40 laboratories in the organization, and over the course of the year, each laboratory will meet with 2–3 senior leaders and each senior leader will visit 4–6 different laboratories. All of this is organized using calendar entries which informs the senior leaders and scientists of where and when to meet, and contains the survey link to collect the feedback.
As a result of this program, our senior leaders engage our bench scientists in conversations that are primarily driven to draw out the safety concerns of our scientists. However, these conversations can run the gamut of anything that is a concern to our team members[aa][ab]. This can range from safety issues, laboratory operations, and current research work to organizational changes and personal concerns. The senior leadership regularly reminds and encourages the scientists to engage on any topic of their choosing; this creates a collegial atmosphere for laboratory occupants to voice their safety concerns and ideas.
The laboratory visit program was modeled around the Safety SPYDR and thus we designed the program to have 8 legs[ac]. The first two legs consist of the program’s goals for the visit. We asked the senior leaders to ensure that they state the purpose of the program, that they are visiting the laboratory to find ways to improve lab safety. The second leg, which is the primary goal, is to ask “what are your safety concerns?”. Often this is met with “we have no safety concerns”, but using techniques common in the interviewing process, the leaders ask deeper probing questions to draw out what the scientists care about and with additional probing[ad][ae][af][ag], root causes of the safety concerns will emerge. Once the scientists start talking about one safety concern, often multiple concerns will then surface, thus giving our safety teams an opportunity to deal with these concerns.
The next two legs of the SPYDR Lab visits consist of observations we ask our senior leaders to make on laboratory clutter and access to emergency equipment[ah]. If the clutter level of a laboratory is deemed unacceptable,[ai][aj][ak][al] the SCT will look to provide support to address root causes of the clutter. Typical solutions have been addition of storage capacity, removal of excess equipment from the work spaces, and alternative workflows. The second observation is to ensure clear paths from the work areas to emergency equipment exist, should an incident occur. We wanted to make sure a direct line existed to the eyewash station/shower such that the occupant would not be tripping over excessive carts, chillers, shelving or miscellaneous equipment. These observations led to active coaching of our laboratory occupants to ensure safe egress existed and modifications to the work environment. For example, the relocation of many chillers to compartments underneath the hood from being on a cart in front of the hood enabled improved egress for a number of laboratories.
For the final four legs of the SPYDR Visit, we ask the senior leaders to probe for understanding on various topics[am] that range from personal protective equipment selection, waste handling, reactor setup and chemical hazards. The visitor is asked to rate these areas from needs improvements, to average, high, or very high. Figure 2 compares these ratings from the first year (2013) with the current year (2018). In the first year of the program, there were a few scattered “needs improvement” rating that resulted in communication with the line management of the laboratory. After the initial year, “needs improvement” ratings became very rare in all cases except clutter. In the current year, we shifted two topics[an] to Laboratory Ergonomics[ao] and Electricity, which uncovered additional opportunities for improvement. We recommend changing the contents of these legs on a regular basis[ap] as it shifts the focus of the discussion and potentially uncovers new safety concerns.
The SPYDR lab visits are built around a feedback loop illustrated in Figure 3 that utilizes an online survey to both track completion of the visits as well as to communicate findings back to the SCT. The order of events around a laboratory visit consist of scheduling a half hour meeting between our senior leaders and the occupants in their laboratories. Once the visit is completed, the visitors will fill out the simple online survey (Figure 4) that details their findings for the visit. The SCT will meet regularly to review the surveys and take actions based on the occupants’ safety concerns. This often involves following up with the team members in the laboratory to ensure they know their safety concerns were heard[aq][ar].
Two potential and significant detractors for this program exist. The first challenge is if the senior visitor does not show up for the visit, this results in a perception that senior management does not embrace safety as a top priority. The second pitfall is if the visitor uncovers a safety concern, but does not fill out the survey to report safety concerns, or if the SCT is unable to address a safety concern. In this case, there would be a perception that a safety concern was reported to a senior leader and “nothing happened”. To minimize these risks, there is significant emphasis for the senior leaders to take ownership of the laboratory visits[as][at] and for the SCT to take ownership of the action items and ensure the team members know their voices have been heard.
DISCUSSION OF SAFETY CONCERNS
A summary of safety concerns is illustrated in Table 1. By a wide margin, clutter was the predominant safety concern in 2013 as it was noted in 50% of the laboratories visited. Three major safety programs within the department were inspired by early visits in order to reduce clutter in the laboratories. This included several rounds of organized general laboratory cleanouts to remove old equipment[au][av]. A second program systematically purged old and/or duplicate chemicals throughout the department.[aw] Most recently, a third program created a systematic long term chemical inventory management system[ax][ay][az] that was designed to reduce clutter caused by the large number of processing samples stored in the department. This program has returned over 900 sq. feet of storage space to our laboratories and has greatly reduced the amount of clutter in the labs. Although clutter remains a common theme in our visits, the focus is now often related to removal of old instruments and equipment [ba][bb][bc][bd]rather than a gross shortage of storage space.
In the first year of the program, one aspect of the laboratory visit was to discuss hazards associated with chemical reactions (feedback rate of 28%) and equipment setup (32%). A common thread in these discussions were expectations of collaboration and behavior from “visiting scientists”. These “visiting scientists” were colleagues[be][bf][bg][bh] and project team members from other laboratories coming to the specific laboratory in order to use its specialized equipment (examples: 20 liter reactors, automated reactor blocks). This caused certain friction between the visiting scientists and their hosts on safety expectations. The SCT addressed this by convening a meeting between hosts and visiting scientists to discuss root causes of friction to produce a list of “best practices” shown in Figure 5 to improve the work experience for both hosts and visitors that is still in use for specialty labs with shared equipment today.[bi][bj]
The next major category of safety concerns for our laboratory visits was associated with facility repairs which was present in 24% of our first year visits. These included items such as leaking roofs, unsafe cabinet doors, or delays in re-energizing hoods after fire drills. These were addressed by connecting our scientists to the appropriate building managers who would be able to evaluate and address these safety concerns. After the initial year, most of the facility related concerns transitioned to the addition/removal of storage solutions within specific laboratories. Currently, when new laboratories are associated with the SPYDR Lab Visit program, major facility concerns will quickly be reported.
These visits also brought to light a common problem occurring in the laboratories, that is, the loss of electrical power associated with circuit breakers being tripped when the electrical outlets associated with a laboratory hood were being used at capacity. This led to the identification of the need to increase the electrical capacity in the fume hoods and this Is now being addressed by an ongoing capital project.
By the third year of the program, the nature of the safety concerns changed as many of the laboratory-based concerns had been addressed[bk]. Concerns raised now included site issues such as traffic patterns, pedestrian safety, walking in parking lots at night, and training. [bl]Among the items addressed for the site include on-site intersections being modified and movement of a fence line to enable safer crosswalks and improvements for the driver’s line-of-sight. A simple question raised about fire extinguisher training and who was permitted to use an AED device led to the expansion of departmental fire extinguisher training to a broader group and the offering of AED/CPR training to the broader organization.
These safety concerns would not be typically detected by a laboratory safety inspection program and are only accessible by directly asking the occupants what their safety concerns are. [bm][bn][bo]Through the SCT, these issues were resolved over time as the team took accountability to move the issue through various channels (facilities, capital projects, ordering of equipment) to develop and implement the solutions.
Since 2013, this novel program[bp] has successfully engaged our leadership with laboratory personnel and has led to hundreds of concerns being addressed[bq]. The concerns have arisen from over 300 laboratory visits, and more than a thousand safety conversations with our scientists. Because this is not a safety inspection program, these visits routinely uncover new safety concerns that would not be expected to surface in our typical laboratory inspection program. The SPYDR visit program is a strong supplement to the laboratory inspection program, and has produced a measurable impact on the safety culture.
A collateral benefit from the program is that it drives social interactions within the department where senior leaders who may not necessarily interact with certain parts of the organization have a chance to visit these team members in their workplace and learn firsthand what they do in the organization[br][bs][bt][bu].
[a]Only a bit bigger than some of the bigger graduate chemistry programs in the US.
[b]How large is the Safety culture Team?
[c]in the range of 6-10
[d]Does this fall in the “other duties as assigned” category or more driven by personal interest in the topic?
[e]Do position descriptions during recruitment include Required or Preferred skills that would add value to inclusion on the SCT?
[f]I was unable to access the article in its entirety so this question may be answered there…. What is the composition of the SCT- who in the organization participates?
[g]representatives from various departments and leaders of safety teams
[h]do some of the senior leadership going to the labs have lab experience?
[j]Was this a formal thing or out of the blue visits?
[k]initially planned as random, unannounced, we had to revert to scheduled in order to ensure scientists were present and available when leaders stopped in
[l]We had the same thing in academic lab inspections. While unannounced visits seemed more intuitive, the benefit of the visits wasn’t there if the lab workers weren’t available to work with the inspectors. So scheduling visits worked out better in the end
[m]In terms of compliance inspections, I would think that the benefit of scheduled inspections is that it can motivate people to clean their labs before the inspection. While I get that it would be preferable that they clean their labs more regularly, the announced visit seems like it would guarantee that all labs get cleaned up at least once per year. And maybe they’ll see the benefit of the cleaner lab and be more inspired to keep it cleaner generally – but I realize that might just be wishful thinking.
[n]So important. We keep running into the issues of experimental safety getting missed by 1-shot inspections.
[o]Some of that could be addressed with better risk assessment training of research staff.
[p]concerns are generally wide ranging, most started out as lab centric in the early years then expanded beyond the labs
[q]Are these other functional areas related to safety or other issues (e.g. quality control, business processes, etc.)
[r]This seems key but also can be super hard to obtain.
[s]I think that it requires leadership that is familiar with all of the different kinds of expertise in the orgainzation to say that. Higher ed contains so many different types of expertise, it is difficult for leadership to know what this commitment entails
[t]And far too often in my experience in academia those in leadership positions have limited management training, which can inhibit good leadership traits.
[u]Many academics promoted into chair or dean level get stuck on budgeting arguments rather than more strategic / visionary questions
[v]I’ve found this expectation to be quite challenging at some higher ed institutions.
[w]Everytime I bring it up to upper management in higher ed, they say “of course safety is #1”, but they don’t want to spend their leadership capital on it.
[x]the program was designed to give senior leaders a role specifically designed for them
[y]@Ralph I completely agree!
[z]This approach seems to be a way for leadership to get involved with out spending a lot of leadership capital.
I always had my best luck “inspecting” labs when I could lead with science-related questions rather than compliance issues
[aa]I think it is really cool that this is thought of expansively.
[ab]Nice to not put bounds on safety concerns going into the conversation. Reinforced later in the paper thru the identification and mitigation of hazards well outside the lab
[ac]Are these legs connected to on boarding training for lab employees?
[ad]This skill would be exceptionally important when discussing such issues with graduate students.
[ae]Are scientists trained in this technique? Or does the SCT have individuals selected for that skill set? When I look around campus at TTU I can see lots of opportunity for collaboration by bringing “non-scientists” into the discussion to get new perspectives and possibly see new problems
[af]This definitely takes practice, but it can also be learned in workshops and by observing good mentoring. The observation process requires a conscious commitment by both the mentor and the employee, though
[ag]one thought at least for me, was the interviewing experience senior folks would have and this would be a chance to practice said skill
[ah]Seems like the process could have some standard topics that can be replaced with new focus areas as the program matures or issues are addressed
[ai]Lab clutter is an ongoing stress for me. Is the clutter related to current work or a legacy of previous work that hasn’t been officially decommissioned yet?
Did your organization develop a set of process decommissioning criteria to maintain lab housekeeping?
[aj]Part of me feels that all researchers should at some point visit/tour a trace analytical laboratory. Contamination is always of such concern when looking for things at ppb/ppt/ppq levels, that clutter rarely develops. But outside of trace analysis laboratory its definitely a continuous problem in most research spaces.
[ak]This is a good idea. I wonder if Bristol Myers Squibb has a program to rotate scientists among different lab groups to share “cross-cultural” learning?
[al]@Chris – good point. I started research in a molecular genetics lab. While there were some issues, the benches and hoods were definitely MUCH cleaner and better organized because of concerns over contamination. Also, we have lab colonies of different insects in which things had to be kept very clean in order to keep lab-acquired disease transmission low for the insects. I was FLOORED by what I saw in chemistry labs once I joined my department. We very much had different ideas about what “clean” meant.
[am]I really like this idea as well. Make sure everyone is on the same page.
[an]I like the idea of shifting focus the previous issues have been addressed
[ao]Great to see emphasis on an often overlooked topic
[ap]Would reviewing these legs annually be regular enough? Or too often?
[aq]So important – people are more willing to discuss issues if they feel like someone is really listening and is prepared to actually address the issues.
[ar]And it demonstrates true commitment to the program and improvements. Supports the trust built between the different stakeholders.
[as]Is there some sort of training or prepping down with these senior leaders?
[at]a short training session occurs to introduce leaders to the purpose of the program
[au]Thank you! This is a challenge for all laboratory organizations I have worked for
[av]Agreed! Too often things are kept even when there is no definitive plan for future use.
[aw]What % of the chemical stock did this purge represent?
[ax]I’m always amazed when I learn of a laboratory that attempts to function without a structured chemical management system. The ones without are often those that duplicate chemical purchases, often in quantities of scale (for price savings) that far exceed their consumption need.
[ay]I once asked the chem lab manager about this. He said that 80% of his budget is people and 15% chemicals. He’d rather focus his time on managing the 80% than the 15%.
He had a point, but I think he was passing up an important opportunity with that approach
[az]@Chris – and grad students waste loads of time looking for the reagents and glassware they need for their experiments. And when they find them, sometimes they have been so poorly stored/ignored that they are contaminated or otherwise useless. Welcome to my lab!
[ba]is this more of a challenge in academia vs. industry?
[bb]This is definitely a pretty big issue for us at the university I work at. Constant struggle.
[bc]One of the things I found frustrating while working at a govt lab is that I found out that we legally weren’t allowed to donate old equipment. I was simultaneously attending a tiny PUI nearby who would have LOVED to take the old equipment off their hands. Now working in an academic lab, I have been able to snag some donated equipment from industry labs.
[bd]@Jessica as someone presently in government research I share your frustration! I have to remind myself that the government systems are all too often setup to prevent abuse, rather than be efficient and benevolent.
[be]Are these other laboratories from within your organization or external partners?
[bf]visitors from other labs within the department,
[bg]We had that challenge to some extent, but the bigger issues arose when visitors from other campuses showed up with different safety expectations than we were trying to instill. International visitors were a particularly interesting challenge…
[bh]@Ralph that was often my experience too, dramatically differing safety expectations now being asked to share research space.
[bi]I wish this occurred with greater frequency in academia. Too often folks are too concerned about hurting a colleagues’ feelings or ego than to have a conversation to address safety concerns.
[bj]I like the best practices approach- less prescriptive and allows researchers some latitude in meeting the requirements. Provides an opportunity for someone (who is a subject matter expert in their field) to come up with a better solution
[bk]That’s great, shows a commitment to the program and supports the trust that has been built between the stakeholders.
[bl]These are important issues in setting the tone of a safety culture for an organization
[bm]Such an important statement here.
[bp]This is a good one!
[bq]Since I’m sure these were tracked, this is a nice metric- prevalence of a particular concern over time.
[br]does this go both ways at all? do the research scientists have the chance to ask how their research projects impact the goals of senior leadership/company?
[bs]there is a social interaction aspect here were scientists will get to interact with leaders they normally would not cross paths with, we can take this opportunity for our analytical leaders to visit chemists, chemistry leaders to visit engineers and engineering leads to visit analytical chemists
[bt]Did business leadership (sales, marketing, etc.) have the opportunity to see this kind of interaction? Or do they have separate interactions with lab staff?
[bu]In higher ed, it would be interesting to take admissions staff on lab tours to inform them about what is going on there and potentially give feedback about what students and parents are interested in
The ACS Division of Chemical Health and Safety is pleased to recognize our 2021 Award Winners in the following categories:
CHAS Lifetime Achievement Award
Robert H. Hill, Jr.
CHAS Graduate Student
Safety Leadership Award
2021 given in honor of Sheharbano “Sheri” Sangji
Graduate Student Team Recipients:
- Jessica De Young, University of Iowa
- Omar Leon Ruiz, University of California, Los Angeles
- Sarah Zinn, University of Chicago
- Cristan Aviles-Martin, University of Connecticut
Laboratory Safety Institute Graduate Research Faculty Award
Ian Albert Tonks, Ph.D., University of Minnesota
SafetyStratus College and University Health and Safety Award
C. Eugene Bennett Department of Chemistry, West Virginia University
Howard Fawcett Award
Robert Toreki, Ph.D., Interactive Learning Paradigms, Incorporated (ILPI)
Diversity Equality Inclusiveness Respect
Diversity and inclusion in the workforce brings significant value to the employer. Diversity in society broadens perspective, improves person to person socializing and creates a culture of openness and growth. ACS has pledged to advance and embrace inclusion in chemistry, which includes promoting our core value of DEIR, identifying and dismantling barriers to success, and creating a welcoming environment so that all ACS members, employees, and volunteers can thrive.
A group met to discuss the DEIR challenges in Chemistry and Environmental Health and Safety in April, 2021. The slides used to lead the discussion are shown here.
The event was co-hosted by:
- Division of Chemical Health and Safety (CHAS)
- Division of Business Development and Management (BMGT)
- Division of Small Chemical Businesses (SCHB)
- ACS Committee on Chemical Safety (CCS)
- Board Committee on Corporation Associates (CA)
- ACS Committee on Meetings & Expositions
- ACS Department of Diversity Programs
The Art and State of Safety Journal Club
April 7th, 2021
The March 31 and April 7th Journal Club meetings discussed the article The Joint Safety Team at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities: A Model for Student-Led Safety, which is available at https://pubs.acs.org/doi/10.1021/acs.jchemed.0c00153
Highlights from the table read discussion and the article are below. Taysir’s complete presentation can be downloaded here:
The Joint Safety Team (JST) was an initiative started by students from the Departments of Chemistry (CHEM) and Chemical Engineering and Materials Science (CEMS) with the aim of proliferating a culture of laboratory safety from a bottom-up approach via four main areas: compliance, awareness, resources, and education. The idea of the JST germinated from discussions between both departments, in addition to the Department of Environmental Health and Safety (DEHS) at the University of Minnesota with guidance from the Dow Chemical Company in 2012. The departments sought to embrace safety standards prevalent in industry while establishing a culture of safe practices in academic laboratories. Additionally, the JST team was expected to supplement the efforts of the faculty-led safety committees of the two departments to ensure compliance of laboratory practices with government regulations.
Since its initiation in 2012, the JST has taken great strides to be recognized as a leader in student-led safety. The safety endeavor has been well supported by the two departments which have enabled the JST to think of short and long-term safety goals. In 2015, as the initial members who had visited Dow were graduating, both department heads agreed to an ongoing investment in the organization to encourage committee participation and address some concerns from principal investigators about student time being taken away from research[a][b][c][d][e].[f][g][h][i][j][k]¨C11C¨C12C¨C13C¨C14C¨C15C The funding was utilized to provide stipends to JST committee members to ensure prolonged participation in the organization¨C16C¨C17C¨C18C. Furthermore, additional funding from the Dow Chemical Company and the Valspar Corporation (now Sherwin-Williams) was acquired in late 2015, which bolstered JST activities. The financial support from the departments and industrial partners has been critical for the ongoing success of the organization.
The current pyramid structure of the JST (Figure 1) is based on a strong foundation of volunteers[t][u][v][w][x][y] and laboratory safety officers (LSOs) who are responsible for daily implementation of safety practices in their respective research groups. Graduate students and postdoctoral associates assume the role of LSOs of individual laboratories by expressing their interest to the principal investigator of the research group and are assigned by the latter. Typically, laboratories involve two LSOs, a junior (first or second year student) and a senior (student in at least their third year or a postdoctoral associate) member of the group to enable efficient information transfer.
The Administrative Committee (AdCom) was formed as a part of the initial JST and included seven members in 2012. Presently, it is led by the president of the JST and includes the chairs of three subcommittees (E&R, A&C, PR), a Finance Oﬃcer, a Technology Oﬃcer, and representatives from the Department of Environmental Health and Safety (DEHS) at the University of Minnesota. After a collaboration with the Valspar Corporation (now Sherwin-Williams) was established in 2014, monthly AdCom meetings also included a representative from the company. The frequency of the meetings was chosen to ensure that the time committed by graduate students and postdoctoral associates to JST activities was limited and their primary focus lay in research. The member of the DEHS provides expert advice on policy and regulation issues regarding safety while the Sherwin-Williams representatives contribute industrial level expectations to strive toward. [z][aa][ab][ac][ad][ae][af][ag][ah][ai][aj]¨C36C¨C37C¨C38C¨C39C¨C40C¨C41C¨C42C¨C43C¨C44C¨C45C
The AdCom meetings create accountability for ensuring smooth functioning of the subcommittees and aim to provide vision and ideas for future events and activities. The members of the AdCom Committee identify departmental safety weaknesses that need to be addressed in the CEMS and CHEM departments. The president sets and enforces the agenda of all AdCom meetings and is responsible for ﬁlling the open positions in the subcommittees.
The JST website (www. jst.umn.edu) has been instrumental in communicating safety in the two departments, in addition to being the face of the organization as perceived by other research departments. The Technology Oﬃcer, in conjunction with the President, is responsible for website maintenance. The website contains access to the LSO guidebook via a university email address, which includes documentation for LSO training, roles and responsibilities, and transitioning between LSOs in a research group. It also includes “safety moments”, which are publicly available slides discussing speciﬁc aspects for widespread use among all researchers. Academic presentations in the CEMS and CHEM departments are preceded by a safety moment to instill a “safety ﬁrst” attitude across students, postdoctoral associates, and faculty. The website also gives access to the Learning Experience Reports (LER) system. A sister manuscript details how LERs have contributed to improving academic safety in the two departments
The Finance Oﬃcer manages the JST expenses and projected budgets including printing and safety awards and also ensures enough funds are present. Additionally, the oﬃcer is also responsible for preparing the annual budget describing all expenses incurred, which helps the JST obtain future funding. The oﬃcer also contributes to AdCom discussions that are aimed at determining the ﬁnancial feasibility of JST events and prizes. The expenses of the JST have varied through the years around a mean of $1500.[au][av][aw][ax][ay][az][ba][bb][bc][bd]
The Education and Resources Committee: The Education and Resources (E&R) committee oversees the organization of safety events for the LSOs of the CEMS and CHEM departments. The events are held every other month during the academic year and culminate into a grand annual safety event in August, open to all members of both departments[be][bf][bg][bh] (staﬀ, graduate students, postdoctoral associates, and professors). The committee members (one chair, four paid members, and an unlimited number of volunteers) determine the topics of each event and are responsible for the content and the subsequent organization of the events. The E&R committee has evolved from its initial role of solely providing safety information to that of organizing events that train researchers in several practical aspects of safety. The ﬁrst academic meeting held in October typically covers the roles and responsibilities of LSOs as the meeting coincides with the most frequent LSO transition period.
Topics covered at the other meetings change every time and have included round-table discussions and other interactive activities to engage and maintain the interest of the attendees. Often, we ask the participation of professors either for speciﬁc training or for sharing their approach to safety (e.g., evolution of safety over the years since the 1950s by an Emeritus Professor https:// youtu.be/HwXQPdhToec). Additionally, the E&R committee manages and updates the Laboratory Safety Oﬃcers’ guidebook. This document explains the roles and responsibilities of the LSOs in their laboratories and contains hyperlinks in order to eﬀectively provide the LSOs with all the resources necessary to support them in their function. Feedback[bi][bj][bk][bl] from participants is constantly sought to gauge the interest generated by a speciﬁc safety training and its format as well as to determine safety topics of interest ensuring true peer contributions. We found that interactive and entertaining activities help deliver safety messages eﬃciently.
Analysis and Compliance: The Analysis and Compliance (A&C) committee is devoted to preparing methodologies which promote safe behaviors and work environment in individual laboratories. he A&C committee coordinates the biannual peer-to-peer safety walkthroughs of the 53 experimental research laboratories[bm][bn] within the CEMS and CHEM departments aimed at evaluating laboratory safety compliance. The committee also administers the departmental safety surveys to encourage dialogue involving safety within both departments. The safety walkthroughs are peer-to-peer safety inspections organized in October and April every year and conducted by the LSOs. For the fall walkthroughs, LSOs from three to four groups are randomly teamed up, whereas in the spring, teams are selected based on the hazard classiﬁcation. By randomizing the teams, the LSOs are better informed about hazards which they do not commonly encounter. Consequently, they engage in safety discussions and learn how speciﬁc hazards are dealt with (e.g., radiation, large scale reactions, high pressure reactors, biological hazards). The reports are then shared with the respective principal investigators and discussed with researchers within individual research groups. Deﬁciencies are expected to be addressed before the next walkthrough. Even though these walkthroughs[bo][bp][bq][br][bs][bt] do not obligate any safety improvements, we have found that comments and suggestions are generally followed, and overall safety improvement has been observed and noted in the laboratories compared to previous walkthrough assessments. A comparison of the safety areas which “need attention” between 2012 and 2019 show that the number of laboratories showing inadequate levels of safety has drastically reduced (Figure 6).
The A&C committee also conducts anonymous departmental safety surveys every semester including staﬀ and faculty of both departments. The goal of these surveys is to obtain feedback about the general safety climate, speciﬁc aspects of laboratory safety, general suggestions, and for people to raise any other safety concerns. The results of the surveys are summarized and discussed with department heads for further discussion among the departmental faculty-led safety committees. For example, teaching assistants in the CHEM department had raised concerns about lack of adequate training for medical emergencies in a teaching laboratory setting. As a result, a step-by-step procedure highlighting the decisions to make and explaining the steps to take in the case of an emergency has been established and given to teaching assistants. [bu][bv]
Public Relations: The Public Relations (PR) committee was formed in 2013 as an addition to the E&R and A&C committees of the JST. Conforming with the informal JST motto of “making safety cool”, the PR committee functions as a medium of communication to establish safety as a common topic of research conversation. In addition to maintaining an active social media presence on Twitter (@UMNJST), the PR committee has utilized a variety of innovative means to inculcate safety into researchers. In 2016, the PR committee started publishing “stall wall moments”, which are letter-sized safety posters installed in the restrooms of both departments. A repository of all publications from the PR committee can be easily accessed through the JST website. The PR committee has also installed large (3 feet × 2 feet) safety posters across building hallways, stairwells, and common areas describing general safety procedures such as hazard pictograms, glove choices, data management, and building emergency evacuation plans. The committee strives to promote colloquial safety-related readings to encourage daily communication to further strengthen the safety culture. Surveys have consistently shown that “stall wall moments” and posters are eﬃcient means of communication which convey available safety resources and provide commentary on relevant safety incidents to the student body on a daily basis. The PR committee has allowed the JST to become the visible face of safety in the two departments making it easier for all researchers to approach safety, not with apprehension, but with an inherent curiosity to learn and implement self- and community-wide safety improvements
Promotion of the Safety Culture[bw][bx][by]: Academic safety is known to lag behind industrial expectations due to the lack of dedicated resources and enforcement as well as a deﬁciency of a strong safety culture. The JST periodically organizes industrial visits to the DOW campus in Midland, MI and the Valspar Corporation (now Sherwin-Williams) corporation in Minneapolis, MN. The visits bolster the attitudes of the visiting students about safety and provide them with opportunities to gain insights into developing new safety protocols at their home laboratory. Furthermore, this JST peer-to-peer model has inspired departments at other universities to set up analogous organizations to promote safety through a similar model.
Although the JST is a well-established organization in 2020, several challenges inherent to academia remain unaddressed. The high turnover of laboratory members makes it diﬃcult to perpetuate the safety culture and good safety practices. Enhancing participation from LSOs and non-LSOs in safety meetings also proves to be a diﬃcult task. [ch][ci][cj][ck]The JST continuously works toward the development of innovative means to make “safety cool” and hence sustain the safety culture. The “inform and reform” model, i.e., the “Minnesota model” has been well supported by the feedback mechanisms to improve the information that is conveyed to researchers as well as ensure constant improvement in safety standards in the CEMS and CHEM departments. The feedback mechanism itself presents a new set of challenges including excess or lack of speciﬁcity of the questions[cl][cm][cn][co][cp][cq] and encouraging thoughtful feedback from researchers in addition to evaluation[cr]¨C96C¨C97C¨C98C¨C99C¨C100C¨C101C¨C102C of the JST activities provided solely based on a point scale¨C103C¨C104C.
[a]This work will hopefully be considered an added value to a person’s research education.
[b]I completely agree!
And again this is another area where I feel that funding mechanism influences the degree of latitude afforded to graduate students in relation to their time allocation. Ones being supported off the research grant are often given less leniency for time spent not solely in pursuit of the grant deliverables.
[d]Agreed. Where you put the money is what gets the attention. Either (a) grant funders need to make safety education part of the grant or (b) the uni admin needs to step up and fund these efforts as part of functioning in the uni.
[e]Absolutely. The fact that we can allocate stipends for volunteers signals to everyone that this taken seriously and being supported by the higher ups
[f]Did anyone feel these concerns were legitimate? i.e. did someone has evidence that time was actually taken from research? Or was this just a general statement?
[g]Safety should be part of the research work. Tilak
[h]@email@example.com. While I wasn’t there at the time, I know of professors who in recent times have been worried about their students participating in student organizations in general. I think this worry comes up when students are involved in one of the JST committee’s rather than when serving as LSOs
[i]Jen Heemstra makes the point that the faculty member’s commitment should be to the student’s professional development, not the amount of lab time the students put in. JST committee work is an important professional asset when it teaches administrative skills (leadership, budgeting, communication)
[j]I know of advisors who don’t support their students taking up leadership positions outside of the lab. I am not surprised some of the faculty members started complaining about the time their students spend out of the lab.
[k]Agree with Monica. This varies quite widely. In terms of Ralph’s comment, it does come back to questions around the purpose of the institution: As a PI, are you primarily there to deliver students or primarily there to deliver data?
[l]I think many would default to the later response, as it influences future funding.
[m]I think that is the sad reality. Grad school on paper is about getting a degree and growing as an individual, but not every PI sees it that way
[n]I think it depends on how broadly you are considering the picture. This is constantly talked about in organizational literature. If you focus on product, you will make money in the short-term. If you focus on supporting your employees, you will typically make more money in the long-term. Better environment = more productivity if you are looking at the long game.
[o]The ACS did a study in 2014 of graduate education that is very interesting to read in light of this issue. The study was led by corporate science leaders and voted strongly for broader education rather than data-oriented training
[p]That is really interesting Ralph. Do you have a link to that study?
[q]What is the value of these stipends? For example, do the members do the JST activities INSTEAD OF teaching? Or are they additional supplements to standard funding mechanisms?
[r]Also, is there a means of judging whether or not paid JST members have “earned their pay” so to speak?
[s]The stipends are $200 per semester, so they do not replace teaching. The committee chair keeps track of attendance to committee meetings, of which there are usually five each semester. The member loses $40 for every meeting missed
[t]Are these solely researchers, or have there been other univ admin staff joining too?
[u]They have been solely researchers. We have tried to ensure that we stay student led so far. We do have a DEHS personal and department staff who support us, but at the end of the day the team is researcher led
[v]We have found that participation of and leadership from more permanent staff is quite useful.
[w]While it is important to have more permanent members stay up-to-date and interested in the LSTs, the thing that sets the LSTs apart from other types of committees is that it is graduate student and postdoc led. This has been incredibly important in order to encourage honest conversation and evaluation from those on the frontline in these labs.
[x]I agree with Anthony in that I’ve found substantial value in engagement and involvement with more permanent staff.
I’m not recommending a change in structure from a leadership and organizational perspective. But I do feel that having engagement and participation from career staff is value-added and can serve in areas of continuity and knowledge transfer.
[y]Our old DEHS staff representative was very essential to our success as well, and we felt a big hit when she left the university. Having that reperseenitve be present at our meetings and advocate for us was extremely helpful. The most important distinction is that they serve in a supportive role, but the organization as a whole is still researcher led
[z]Who does this representative tend to be? A scientist? Administrative staff person?
[aa]It is a DEHS administrative stuff. They usually have some background in science however
[ab]Additionally, do you have any sense what is “in it” for the company to be this involved? I have found that we struggle to get much traction in building relationships with local companies – beyond giving us tours of the facility (which is usually thought of as a recruitment opportunity to them so is typically run through HR).
[ac]I think it is more or less PR for them too. They employ a lot of grad students, so it does help them to have their future employees trained in proper safety practices
[ad]I suppose it may depend on how heavily they anticipate recruiting for 1 particular program at 1 particular school…?
[ae]Yeah they are very involved in the two department where we operate. They have recruitment events and even collaborations with some of our faculty
[af]At Cornell, I was able to arrange a safety-oriented tour of Corning labs for chem engineering students. They were disappointed that they didn’t get to hear about cutting edge research (aka trade secrets) as well as working expectations…
[ag]Well – if they thought they were going to hear trade secrets, they may need a bit more education on how companies run :). I have been on tours in which they were essentially led by HR & we didn’t get to see anything cool which were terrible. I have been on other tours that have involved researchers and we got to actually go around the facility and discuss details of the work. If our questions go to something proprietary, they would say essentially, “can’t answer that – but here’s what I can say.” Those were extremely valuable tours in terms of thinking about how companies operate and what possibilities existed for career options for researchers.
[ah]I have found that it takes an entirely different vocabulary to say what you are interested in doing in academia versus what you are interested in doing in industry.
[ai]Yes, the grad students were disappointed that they were being educated about safety vocabulary rather than technical fields where their strengths already were. With this in mind, I could have done a better job in setting expectations for the visit.
[aj]The unhappy response was “well, I missed a day in the lab for this”
[ak]I have found that our lab tours attract far more international students than domestic students. Everyone has expressed appreciation for the tours and the ability to connect – I definitely do realize that the students are going on the tours to make connections in companies (not for the love of learning about safety), however, I also think it is good that the two (safety + employability) are being shown together and necessarily connected to each other.
[al]We usually organize tours to Sherwin Williams that along the same lines. It about highlighting the safety practices there and also a recruitment event for the the company. We have gotten mixed responses are well in the past
[am]Employability = meeting industrial level expectation = part of a person’s research education?
[an]I think in an ideal world it would be, but safely safety adherence gets often overlooked in academic settings
[ao]There are also quite a few PIs who do not think of it as their job to prepare their students for work in industry.
[ap]There are quite a few PIs who wouldn’t know what industry needs. My master’s adviser went on sabbatical year to an industrial position and came back 6 months early because he and the corporate world didn’t get along
[aq]Do we even have a “definable” idea of what industry is looking for? Safety is too broad for those academics who have never worked in industry.
[ar]While I think that it is a good idea to get a feel for the “definables”, I also think a lot of the problem is actually centered around the basics: wear your freakin’ PPE; don’t do stuff in the lab without telling other people what you will be doing.
[as]Yeah I think the main thing that we got from DOW and Sherwin Williams was to have researchers go with a safety oriented mindset, and being willing to adhere to safe practices outlined by the companies. That is why the core of what we advocate is the safety culture above everything else
[at]Personally, it was weird for me to go from undergrad where you are constantly watched to grad where you are NEVER watched. The companies I have worked with, there was an expectation that people were going to be around sort of keeping an eye on you, but it was also your job to be an adult and communicate with others. Personally, I found this REALLY GREAT because I learned so much more from the people around me.
[au]This seems like a very doable, yearly investment. Any idea on ROI?
[av]Are there any critical “donations” of space, resources, etc?
[aw]I am assuming that this amount does not include the stipends. 🙂
[ax]What do you mean with ROI? In terms of space, we have not needed any dedicated space so far. Any supplies that we have needed to keep we have kept in a box that one of the committee members keeps in one of their offices.
[ay]Yes that is correct Jessica
[az]ROI = return on investment
[ba]I would imagine that all of the press and attention UMN gets for this work is likely the ROI to be expected – and all of this attention resulting from a few thousand dollars is likely viewed as remarkably good ROI.
[bb]I agree with Jessica. I think the department is very happy with the exposure that we get and uses us a recruitment device. I also think the simple fact that people generally feel safer in their lab spaces is well worth it
[bc]Are these costs solely operational/administrative, and not reflective of any other incentive expenditures (e.g. monetary awards)?
[bd]The costs are split between posters, awards, and food. There is a figure in the paper that breaks these down in more detail
[be]Is space limited? If not, is there interest for participation from other departments/organized research units?
[bf]The space is not at all limited. We have currently started a new committee dedicated to outreach, and we plan to start inviting students from local PUIs
[bg]Excellent, I hope that others find value and choose to participate.
[bh]I hope so as well!
[bi]It would be interesting to see the list of topics covered where student interest was the greatest. Also, are these meetings mandatory or optional for students in these departments?
[bj]We do send out surveys after these events to gauge interest, but we do not get a lot of response. These events are mandatory for LSOs, but open to all researchers
[bk]While I know it doesn’t “feel” like data gathering, I have found it far more useful to have our JST members (and EHS staff) floating around during events eavesdropping on conversations and explicitly asking for people’s feedback rather than handing out surveys. Not only do we get more response, the responses are actually much more useful and informative – especially when I engage people who have been “voluntold” to be there but are clearly not enjoying it. You gotta be ready for the real criticism with that approach though :).
[bl]Yeah I try to do this during our events where we have group discussions. I participate as a researcher and not as the president of the JST, and I think that helps me gauge people’s attitudes a little bit. This was easier when everything was in person though
[bm]Is this lab spaces or lab groups? (i.e. my 1 lab group has 3 separate lab spaces that are all situated next to one another – the 3 spaces are inspected separately by EHS).
[bn]We do it by groups. The idea is that each group gets a review of how safe they are that they can discuss together afterwards
[bo]Is there is any checklist for the walkthrough, how do you gauge the safety improvements
[bp]Yes. We have a sample sheet in the SI. It is constantly being revised and each category has a detailed rubric. The A&C committee also analyze the results each year and reports that information to the heads of the two departments
[bq]Have these results been used to identify department-wide pain points or issues that are more appropriately addressed on a department level or university level – rather than just individual lab issues?
[br]We have identified issues on the department level that we have addressed or are currently addressing. One big issue in the past was cluttered which we did an event targeting in the past and did a good job of minimizing. We have also had issues come up with electronics and old waste, and so we have brought up those issues in our events. We are currently working on creating hazard specific walkthrough rubrics
[bs]This is an excellent program!
[bu]It is really good to see that this produced an effective feedback loop.
[bv]Yes we are very lucky in that we have a lot of support from the departments, and that they are willing to listen to the issues that we bring up and try to address them
[bw]Have there been or are there plans to expand to other departments?
[bx]We are currently working in talks with the college of pharmacy to try to implement a safety team there. There are the closes to us in terms of research, but they have their own set of challenges such as being spread out all over campus
[by]This is an interesting example, in that pharmacy’s have product safety certification requirements as well as lab safety concerns. This might provide another angle to foster in that department
[bz]The ultimate purpose of a JST is to inculcate safety into the students as they progress in their careers. With about 8-9 years history in this project, is there any follow-up of graduates who are now a few years into their post-graduate career?
[cb]I don’t know a lot of the original organizers, but I do know of a few. One of the DEHS positions have been field with a previous member of the JST, and there is actually another DEHS position that I know a graduating member of the JST is seeking. I also know that several members ended up in different industries where they continue to advocate for safety in their new roles. Good point though, I will try to reach out to some of the past members though and compile a list of stories
[cc]This is a really good idea. While it is neat to see some of these folks become safety professionals, I think it would be really important to see some of them go into more traditional roles but have their JST experience influence how they act in that role.
[cd]Are the opportunities associated with JST involvement discussed with potential students? Or when recruiting new faculty?
[ce]I hope, and the reason I strongly support JSTs, that the next generation of PIs and lead scientists include safety in their science view. Measuring that will have a strong indication of the success of the JST endeavor.
[cf]@Ralp Stuart, One of our biggest recruitment tactics is to say that involvement in the JST looks great on a resume and allows you to network with safety professionals.
[cg]@Neal I completely agree. We have gotten to the point where the JST is embedded into the fabric of the two departments and taken for granted. Our biggest measure of success has been the surveys that we send out, and how people feel about the safety conditions of their work environments
[ch]What kinds of things have you tried?
[ci]More interactive activities such as safety demos was a big hit. We have also tried to do hazard specific panels as well as invite outside speakers. According to our rules we are supposed to penalize LSOs who do not attend, but we have not implemented that because we didn’t want to add another source of stress to our LSOs during a pandemic
[cj]I would think it wouldn’t make sense to have penalties for non-attendance – goes against the spirit of the whole thing! I recall Texas A&M’s team used “Safety Moments” to start meetings that were focused on a particular technique or piece of equipment – for example, they started with glovebox safety. After kicking off with the Safety Moment, they would open it up for everyone to share questions, ways they had dealt with different challenges, etc. I really liked this idea because it was more specific for people who had those particular challenges so I would think they would get more from it as opposed to always focusing on the safety stuff that all of us share.
[ck]That’s an interesting idea. We try to start our events with safety moments, and all of our departmental seminars also begin with safety moments, but we do not open the floor for discussion afterwards. In the past we have had specific topic events such as Schlenk lines, glove boxes, vacuum pumps, etc, and those we do get good attendance for
[cl]This is a core skill for professionals in general and safety professionals in particular to develop. It is not easy and is done by trial and error. So it is good to hear that this is being experienced at the grad student level
[cm]Yes we are constantly improving our skill level. The big issue is that a lot of the lessons that we learn get lost due to the high turnover rate that we hava
[cn]There are commercial half day and full professional development courses around these issues available that can be useful in the early stages of ones career. Perhaps the departments could support scholarships to them.
[co]That would be an awesome way to bolster the “value” of high participation in the JST as well.
[cp]That is a good idea. I think the department is not willing to pay any extra money right now due to budget cuts and COVID, but potentially when the pandemic is over we could pursue that route
[cq]There is also the possibility of seeking out what is already happening and then inviting/incentivizing your LSO folks to go. So many of the issues that come up for JSTs have to do with communication, handling difficult conversations, managing up, etc – and I certainly know there are other departments at UConn who do a much better job of creating these events than my department does. The events are typically open to all departments – although I have been at PLENTY of these types of events/trainings in which I am the sole Chem person (even though we are one of the largest departments on campus) and sometimes even the sole STEM person. If my Chair actually valued this type of training, even light encouragement from him could increase those numbers.
[cr]How did the recent incident impact the JST? Was there a sense of failure?
[cs]Which one are you referring to?
[ct]dec 4 2020 chemistry explosion?
[cu]Yeah there was definitely a sense of failure as a result of that incident. One the biggest one was that it took a lot of time for anyone to communicate what happened with us, and so it was months after before we could say something to the LSOs about it, which angered a lot of people
[cv]What was the cause of this incident, can you briefly explain
[cw]The fact that this delay in communication angered a lot of people is in itself progress! Stuff happens in our department all the time that doesn’t get discussed or shared in an official capacity – and no one is angry about it because it is just so normalized for us to not be in that conversation.
[cx]The researcher ran a Fischer esterification with two new substrates on a 35g scale. They felt safe because they had runt he reaction with different substrates on a similar scale in the past. The reaction involved adding propargyl alcohol to a sulfuric acid mixture and heating to 70C. after 30 minutes the reaction detonated. The researcher did not have a lab coat on and had several cuts and burns. Luckily there were other group members there who helped the researcher use the safety shower and then seek emergency help
[cy]I agree Jessica. It definitely is a step in the right direction. There is still room for improvement though!
[cz]Have you made any efforts to encourage feedback by a mechanism other than surveys?
[da]We have recently started doing a semesterly LSO forum. This in an event where all LSOs are invited to come together and share any issues that they are encountering