Tag Archives: Safety Education

Pragmatism as a teaching philosophy in the safety sciences

On March 10, Dr. Patricia Shields discussed the article she co-authored with three safety professionals about using “pragmatism” as a safety philosophy in the safety sciences. Her summary powerpoint and the comments form the table read of this article are below.

The full paper can be found here: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0925753520304926?casa_token=gG7VtvjEqqsAAAAA:Of4B_mGRk-HwwH-q_WQLybg2zDGPtjcYVFCg0ZgnYe5riPefhOJ6nDCGF2YwjMrhSR2wGfIABg

Excerpts from “Pragmatism as a teaching philosophy in the safety sciences: A higher education pedagogy perspective”

03/03 Table Read for The Art & State of Safety Journal Club

Excerpts from “Pragmatism as a teaching philosophy in the safety sciences: A higher education pedagogy perspective”

Full paper can be found here: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0925753520304926?casa_token=gG7VtvjEqqsAAAAA:Of4B_mGRk-HwwH-q_WQLybg2zDGPtjcYVFCg0ZgnYe5riPefhOJ6nDCGF2YwjMrhSR2wGfIABg

Meeting Plan

  • (5 minutes) Jessica to open meeting
  • (15 minutes) All participants read complete document
  • (10 minutes) All participants use “Comments” function to share thoughts
  • (10 minutes) All participants read others’ Comments & respond
  • (10 minutes) All participants return to their own Comments & respond
  • (5 minutes) Jessica announces next week’s plans & closes meeting

  1. Introduction

(FYI, most of the Introduction has been cut)

Elkjaer (2009) has previously alluded to this lack of appreciation and value of pragmatism ‘as a relevant learning theory’ (p. 91) in spite of the growing recognition of its important role in education and teaching (Dewey, 1923, 1938; Garrison and Neiman, 2003; Shields, 2003a; Sharma et al., 2018), scholarship and academic development (Bradley, 2001), academic practice (Shields, 2004; 2006), curriculum (Biesta, 2014) and online learning (Jayanti and Singh, 2009). This article, therefore, addresses this anomaly by arguing for the appropriateness of pragmatism as a highly relevant philosophical cornerstone, especially for safety science educators[a].

2. The Scholarship of Learning and Teaching (SoLT)

(FYI, this section has been cut)

3. Pragmatism as a teaching philosophy

3.1. Teaching philosophies

(FYI, most of this section has been cut)

The research paradigms used extensively in higher education are positivism and interpretivism and are often being cited by faculty as influencing their teaching philosophy (Cohen et al., 2006). These two are usually associated with quantitative and qualitative research methods respectively but both prove problematic for the teaching of the safety sciences. First, safety science relies on both quantitative and qualitative methods. Second, neither uses a ‘problem’ orientation in its approach to methods and safety science is inherently problem and practice oriented and certainly should be with respect to its teaching.[b][c][d]

Third, the mixed methods literature has recognized this drawback and adopted pragmatism as their research paradigm because it takes the research problem as its point of departure (Johnson and Onwuegbuzie, 2004). In contrast to positivism and interpretivism, pragmatism holds the view that the research question that needs to be answered is more important than either the philosophical stance or the methods that support such stance. Pragmatism is traditionally embraced as the para­digm of mixed methods hence, it turns the incompatibility theory on its head by combining qualitative and quantitative research approaches, and “offers an immediate and useful middle position philosophically and methodologically; a practical and outcome-oriented method of inquiry that is based on action and leads” (Johnson and Onwuegbunzie, 2004, p. 17). The pluralism of pragmatism allows it to work across and within methodological and theoretical approaches, which for the purpose of the intent of this paper is consistent with a safety science multi-disciplinary approach.

This places practice, where the problem must originate, as an important component of mixed methods. This practice orientation res­onates with the goals of learning and teaching in safety science. Therefore, presented here is the philosophy of ‘pragmatism’ which we argue is much better suited for guiding or informing safety science teaching endeavours.

3.2. The foundations of pragmatism

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3.3. Value of pragmatism for the safety sciences

(FYI, this section has been cut)

4. Safety science higher education in Australia

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5. Pragmatism and evidence informed practice (EIP)

Safety science education has traditionally taken an evidence-informed practice (EIP) stance for its teaching practice. Evidence informed practice is not a one-dimensional concept and its definition is still under debate with various academic lenses being applied to the notion of ‘research as evidence’ and how EIP can be measured (Nelson and Campbell, 2017). However, Bryk (2015) is attributed to offering up the view that EIP is a “fine-grained practice-relevant knowledge, generated by educators, which can be applied formatively to support professional learning and student achievement” (Nelson and Campbell, p. 129).[e]

This includes the expectation that students will be able to use their theoretical knowledge, gained through their academic studies, including research in the field, and translate this knowledge into practical appli­cations in the real world[f][g][h][i][j][k][l][m][n][o]. There are continued efforts to recognise these Research to Practice (RtP) endeavours, as an example, the Journal of Safety, Health and Environmental Research in 2012 devoted an issue to ‘Bridging the Gap Between Academia and the Safety, Health and Envi­ronmental (SH&E) Practitioner. The issue demonstrated “the vital role of transferring SH&E knowledge and interventions into highly effective prevention practices for improving worker safety and health” (Choi et al., 2012, p.1). In that issue Chen et al. (2012, p. 27) found that the ‘Singapore Workplace Safety and Health Research Agenda: Research-to-Practice’ prioritizes, first, organisational and business aspects of work­ place health and safety (WHS) and second, WHS risks and solutions.

Other researchers in that same issue (Loushine, 2012, p. 19) examined ‘The Importance of Scientific Training for Authors of Occupational Safety Publications’ and found that there needs to be “attention on the coordination of research and publication efforts between practitioners and academics/researchers to validate and advance the safety field body of knowledge” (p. 19).

Shields (1998) introduced the notion of ‘classical pragmatism’ as a way to address the academic/practitioner divide in the public admin­istration space. She also notes that the pure EIP approach often contains a lack of congruence between practitioner needs and research[p][q] (Shields, 2006). She identifies theory as a source of tension. Practitioners often see theory as an academic concern divorced from problems faced in their professional world. Here, pragmatism bridges theory and practice because theory[r] is considered a “tool of practice” which can strengthen student/practitioner skills and make academic (process and products) stand up to the light of practice (Shields, 2006, p. 3). The pragmatist philosopher, John Dewey used a map metaphor to describe the role of theory, whereby a map is not reality, but it is judged by its ability to help a traveller reach their chosen destination[s] (Dewey, 1938).

This perspective is often demonstrated in the student’s capstone, empirical research project. Using a problematic situation as a starting point, they introduce literature, experience and informed conceptual frameworks as theoretical tools that help align all aspects of a research process (research purpose, question, related literature, method and statistical technique). Thus, student/practitioners/researchers, led by a practical problem, could develop or find a theory by drawing on diverse (pluralistic) literature as well as their experience with the problematic situation. This provisional theory guides choice of methodology, vari­able measurement, data collection and analysis, which is subsequently shared (participatory) and evaluated. Practical problems are therefore addressed by the student’s conceptual framework, which is considered a tool related to the problem under investigation. This approach thus emphasizes the connective function of theory (Shields, 2006). The use of this pragmatic framework has allowed a bridge between theory and for it to be successfully applied to higher education more broadly (Bach­kirova et al., 2017; El-Hani and Mortimer, 2007). Texas State University has embedded a pragmatism informed research methodology in its Master of Public Administration program with success measured in student awards, citations and recognition in policy related publications (Shields et al., 2012).

Therefore, it is proposed that safety science is a discipline which would, and should, also benefit from alignment with philosophical pragmatism. This would represent a much wider stance and a shift from viewing safety science education with merely an EIP lens, where the main consideration for teaching practice is that students are presented with research which provides them the required ‘scientific evidence’ and that the teaching of this research is enough to inform their practice of the discipline [t][u](Hargreaves, 1996, 1997). It should be noted that pragmatism does not abandon evidence, rather it contextualizes it in a problematic situation.

6. The significance of pragmatism as a teaching philosophy

[v]

For pragmatism to penetrate the safety science education field it needs to be relatively easy to apply and transmit. Fortunately, Brendel (2006) has developed a simple four P’s framework, which captures pragmatism’s basic tenets and can easily be applied as to teaching (Bruce, 2010). The 4P’s of pragmatism include the notions that educa­tion needs to be Practical (scientific inquiry should incorporate practical problem solving), Pluralistic (the study of phenomena should be multi-and inter- disciplinary), Participatory (learning includes diverse perspectives of multiple stakeholders) and Provisional (experience is advanced by flexibility, exploration and revision), as shown in Fig. 2.

The majority of safety science students simultaneously study and work in agencies or organisations as safety professionals. Hence, they appreciate the pragmatic teaching approach whereby teacher, student and external stakeholders influence learning by incorporating multiple perspectives. When teaching is filtered through a pragmatic philosoph­ical lens, students’ learning is framed by their key domain area of in­terest as well as their professional context and work experienc[w][x][y][z][aa][ab]e. It encourages them to ‘try on’ their work as experiential[ac][ad][ae] learning, which they can take into and out of the classroom. Flexibility, integration, reflection and critical thinking are nurtured. Pragmatism and the four Ps can facilitate this process.

Ideally, the classroom environment incorporates communities of inquiry where students and teachers work on practical problems appli­cable to the health and safety domain. The pluralistic, expansive com­munity of inquiry concept incorporates participatory links to the wider public, including industry and workers (Shields, 2003b). The commu­nity of inquiry also encourages ongoing experimentation (provisional). The ‘practical problem’ and ‘theory as tool’ orientation provides op­portunities to bridge the sometime rigid dualisms between theory and practice. This teaching lens also incorporates a spirit of critical opti­mism, which leads to a commitment by the teacher [af]and the higher ed­ucation institution to continually experiment and work to improve the content delivery and student learning experience (Shields, 2003a).

Pragmatism emphasizes classroom environments which foster trans­formations in thinking and these transformations in thinking can often be observed in the quality of student’s final research project (Shields and Rangarajan, 2013). Most students graduating from postgraduate degrees in the safety sciences are required to produce a major piece of work (thesis) with broad practical value. Ideally they grow and develop useful skills from the learning experience and the thesis is useful to their employer/or­ganization and has applicability to the wider community in which they work as safety professionals.[ag][ah][ai][aj]

6.1. Pragmatic learning – student success – enhancement to practice

Higher education safety science pedagogy should be embedded in the notion that most of the students who attend come with some depth of practical experience and practical wisdom whom the academe should treat as lifelong learners and researchers[ak]. The academe should provide them with tools and skills to be stronger lifelong learners equipped to contribute to safety science practice[al][am][an][ao][ap][aq].

The universities in which the researchers of this article are aligned use pragmatism as a multi/trans-disciplinary approach in order to bridge the gap between academic theory (research) and practice. Whilst two of these universities teach safety science, the third one places pragmatism in the public administration domain and has for many years successfully incorporated the use of pragmatism to bridge the gap be­tween academia and practice (Shields and Tajalli, 2006; Foy, 2019).

The value of using pragmatism as a teaching philosophy is one which has been successfully demonstrated to bridge this gap. A snippet of just some of the student feedback on student learning from the use of a pragmatism philosophy of teaching are evidenced below:

Having been a railway man for over thirty years I recognised that a gap

needed to be closed in my academic knowledge to advance further in the

business and wider industry and the Safety Science courses have provided

the vehicle for this to occur. Importantly I have been able to link the

learning in these courses and the assignments directly to the activities of

my rail organisation. That’s a big selling point in today’s business world.

(Safety Science Student, Phil O’Connell)

In 2014, I was promoted to Administrative Division Chief of Safety. On several occasions, I found myself utilizing the skills I learned to help evaluate and improve issues and programs in my fire department. In particular I was able to [ar]use case study research to show that our Safety

Division was understaffed. As a result, I successfully increased our

numbers of Safety Officers from 5 to 26. I have also used the same

techniques to improve our departments PPE and cancer prevention pro­

grams. The greatest challenge, however, came when we had 100 fire

fighters exposed to a potentially massive amount of asbestos during a

major high rise fire. Our department had never dealt with an exposure of

its magnitude. I was able to help our department solve a very difficult

problem concerning asbestos and its effect on our PPE. I even received

calls from other fire departments who were interested in our method.

(Public Administration Student – Brian O’Neill)

These students have gone on to have their research cited and widely acknowledge (O’Connell et al., 2016; O’Connell et al., 2018; O’Neill, 2008) as have many other students under this pragmatic philosophy for learning and teaching.[as]

6.2. Pragmatic learning – student success – theoretical advancement

Whilst the embedding of pragmatism as a teaching philosophy is relatively new for Australian universities teaching in the safety science space, it is well entrenched within the public administration programs at Texas State University. Approximately 60 percent of students in this program work full time in state, local federal or non-profit organiza­tions. [at][au]Their capstone papers focus on the practical problems of public policy, public administration and nonprofit administration. [av][aw][ax][ay][az][ba]Problems with “disorganised graduate capstone papers with weak literature re­views” (Shields and Rangarajan, 2013, p. 3) pushed the faculty to adopt pragmatism as a teaching framework. This approach enhanced students’ Applied Research Projects (ARP), which have demonstrated remarkable industry, field and community impact (Shields, 1998). [bb]For example, five of the papers won first place in the United States among schools of public affairs and administration. A content analysis of the Texas State Uni­versity applied research papers (ARPs) revealed that “most of these ARPs are methodical inquiries into problems encountered by practitioners at the workplace. Hence a dynamic interplay of practitioner experience informs public administration research, and rigorous research informs practitioner response to administration/management problems” (Shields et al., 2012, pp. 176–177).

(FYI, paragraph cut)

7. Conclusion

Higher education teachers who have used pragmatism as their teaching philosophy for some time have led the way for an interest in pragmatism as a teaching philosophy to spread and gain momentum into other domains. However, despite this and publications which endorse the use of pragmatism, there still appears to be little understanding of the benefits and rationale for pragmatism to be used as a teaching phi­losophy over other more established and entrenched research focused philosophies. [bc]Therefore, this paper has tried to distil both an under­standing of what pragmatism represents and the ‘how and why’ it should be used more broadly, particularly for safety science educators.

Pragmatism goes beyond what is offered by the more singular notion of evidence-informed practice, especially within the safety sciences higher educational programs. Its value in other domains has been well established particularly where more problem focused, and practical applied applications are required.[bd] Further, significant positive results in student’s research outputs from having a pragmatic research [be]framework are now well demonstrated. Where student work can be used to inform decision making, policy making and problem solving that impacts wider inquiry its value stands out, as already evidenced in both the public administration space and safety science space.[bf]

In relation to the safety sciences, the higher educational pedagogist can be confident that the path to pragmatism is a well-worn, even if it may be unfamiliar to the discipline. It is recommended to extend teaching practices, past only valuing the evidence-informed practice stance, to reduce the theory to practice divide. This can be done by incorporating a broader philosophical (4 Ps) pragmatic perspective in order to develop a professional practice community of safety science problem solvers.

Therefore, embracing pragmatism as a teaching philosophy is encouraged in the higher education sector,[bg][bh] and recent acknowledgments of, and acceptance for this teaching philosophy stance, has instilled greater confidence of its recognition and credibility for its wider use. For the safety science educator, they can be proud that its adoption as a teaching philosophy is a long awaited natural development instigated by the early pragmatists forebearers who worked in the safety field.

[a]Is safety a science? I can see arguments that it is, but I can also see arguments that it is a cultural eductation about community expectations for workplace decision-making. (There are many different “communities” potentially included in this concept.)

[b]Would you include constructivism as a different paradigm?

[c]I see interpretivism and constructivism as very similar. The methods literature often treats them as basically the same. In many ways it depends on whether the problem is approached inductively or deductively. Construstivism is associated with inductive exploratory research often.

[d]I wonder if sometimes there is insufficiency of reflection to make constructivism too close to interpretivism.

[e]EIP or EBP (Evidence-Based Practice has become much more popular in general STEM education in the past 5-10 years, especially as part of the DBER (Discipline-Based Education Research) set of practices.

[f]Previous TA training I received stressed the importance of applying lecture content to new problems to help students learn and retain knowledge. I think thats a stong benefit of pragmatism.

[g]Again, I’m wondering a bit of the distinction between this and constructivism?

[h]I find that there are many missed opportunities in lecture courses and textbooks to really connect students to the safety aspects of the chemicals being described. For example, with the number of times HF is used as an example of textbook problems, it would be nice to include something about how incredibly hazardous it is to work with!

[i]Just today in an honors general chemistry course we talked about the hazards of perchlorate salts. I was surprised that the textbook was using it as a regular example, along with perchloric acid, without a hint of a discussion about safety…

[j]I believe this can also be applied to “less hazardous” compounds also, there is, in my opinion, a huge disconnect between the overall properties of a compound and its hazardous nature. For example, ethyl acetate, commonly used, not extremely hazardous, but just this week I had multiple students ask why it they needed to work with it in a hood rather than their open benchtop.

[k]One of the learning opportunities in pragmatic safety science is uncovering hidden assumptions in standard practices. My “hazmat chemists” instincts are very different from the “research chemists” instincts about the same chemicals. It takes a lot of practice to go into a conversation about these chemicals with an open mind.. (This has come up this week with a clean out of research lab and very different perceptions of the value and hazards of specific chemical containers.)

[l]It would be really cool to see an organic textbook for example that has inset sections on the safety considerations of different reactions. My O chem professor would sometimes highlight reactions that were good on paper and problematic in reality, but it should a more frequent discussion.

[m]This is something that gets addressed in our organic labs actually. They “design” their own experiment. They’re given a number of chemicals in a list (some are controlled substances, some are very expensive) and are asked to choose which ones they would like to use for their experiment. We then use their choice from groups to go over both safety aspects and expense aspects and how we can then still do our experiment with other chemicals.

[n]That is a great exercise. I especially like how practical and open-ended it is.

[o]Overall, in an organic chemistry course practical knowledge of synthesis is mostly untouched as many of the classic reactions used to teach the course are fairly complex experimentally. I.e. sandmeyer reactions are conveniently simple  to explain but harder to accomplish in person.

[p]This seems to be an issue across many fields. Often times we see that those performing the practice and those performing the research speak different languages and consider very different things important.

[q]I see this a lot in experimental and computational work. Different languages, different skill sets, and different approaches

[r]Safety science also has this issue internally. There is an interesting paper that was covered in a podcast awhile ago about “reality-based safety science”: https://safetyofwork.com/episodes/ep20-what-is-reality-based-safety-science

[s]I’m thinking about an analogy with computational and experimental chemistry also. I like the “tools of practice” bridge.

[t]How would this compare to case studies?

[u]I would imagine that for Case Studies to become research that someone would have to gather case studies and look for trends. I see Case Studies as an opportunity to share one experience or one set of experiences with the community in the hopes that with enough Case Studies a meaningful research study could be conducted.

[v]Case studies are definitely included in this.  Scientific evidence here would mean that the evidence was collected with a scientific attitude. There is no belief that actual objectivity is possible but something close should be strived for.

[w]Allowing students to pursue their interests is alway a benefit while learning. Its been a struggle to organize researcher safety meetings in a way to engage participants by allowing them to follow their interests, especially with virtual meetings. Has anyone found strategies that facilitate that interest and engagement?

[x]Something I had started to explore just before the lockdown was to try to set up opportunities for grad students to discuss the risk assessments around their own project work. In this way, they could show off their expertise while helping to educate others – and possibly reveal some things that they hadn’t thought about or didn’t know. I really liked how Texas A&M did their Table Discussions in which they invited students who had something in common (i.e. all those who use gloveboxes), presented a Safety Moment about them, then invited students to share their own stories, strategies, and concerns with one another about glovebox usage.

[y]We started doing round tables that would discuss safety topics within their own focus area (inorganic, organic, physicals/atmospheric), similar to what Jessica mentioned with gloveboxes and that’s gotten a lot response and interest.

[z]Those sounds like great ideas. We already have our department research groups divided into hazard classes so it would be easy to have them meet in those groups. Thanks for the suggestions. I also like the idea of participants presentation to eachother instead of a lecture style event.

[aa]I like this a lot. Is there much faculty involvement?

[ab]We don’t get as much faculty involvement due to their busy schedules. But we have had safety panels with faculty with different safety specialties such as lasers, slink lines, compressed gases, physical hazard etc.

[ac]Is pragmatism a bridge between theoretical and experiential learning?

[ad]I believe that it is most useful when the bridge runs both ways

[ae]Excellent point. One should inform the other.

[af]Action research is certainly on the continuum of research that can be informed by pragmatism. The pluralism of pragmatism comes to play here.

[ag]Hopefully within the safety sciences this aspiration is realized more often than in other disciplines. Too many times, theses and dissertations get lost in the archives and go unread.

[ah]Again, this is something that makes me think of the ideas behind Action Research. Since it is a research method by which the researcher questions their own practice, the thesis that ultimately comes of it could potentially be of interest to their own employers or teams (even if no one else reads it).

[ai]Safety research tends to be somewhat more read because it is often driven by the need to support a risk decision. But as Covid has shown, this may not improve the quality of the scientific literature that is being read. The rush to publish (no or small amounts of data) has really slowed the understanding of best safety practices

[aj]I see what you mean Jessica even if the actual manuscript is not disseminated a researcher self-evaluating their own practice can definitely serve a self-check where one can see places to improve.

[ak]How would you say the idea of “pragmatism” relates, if at all, to the concept of Action Research?

[al]Would a pragmatic point of view work in beginner safety courses?

[am]I think that the “citizen scientist” movement is an attempt at a pragmatic approach to purer enviromental sciences, but I’m not convinced that this kinds of projects improve science literacy. They seem to go to stop at the crowd sourced data collection phase and then the professionals interpret the data for the collectors

[an]This goes back to the expert/novice question. Would a pragmatic approach work for both? I can see the advantage in graduate/postgraduate education. I’m wondering if the knowledge base is broad enough for beginners?

[ao]I agree. You don’t know what you don’t know.

[ap]It is also very frustrating for the beginner to put in a lot of effort collecting data and then be told that that data is fatally flawed for an obscure reason

[aq]Pragmatism would call on the expert to listen carefully to the novice particularly if the novice is in the world of practice. This is where the participatory nature of pragmatism comes in. Both should have a voice.

[ar]Brian specifically mentions case study as a method he used.

[as]I actually think of a managers need to solve problems like safety issues at work could be looked at as a mini “applied” case study.  The context of the problem shapes the parameters of the case.

[at]Do the students who are not working full time have a good sense of applications? And does it make them feel better prepared for common workplace problems?

[au]I would think that even if they didn’t work full time, they could still pick some sort of problem in the public domain to really seriously do a lot of research on. If nothing else, it could give them a sense of why the problem is so intractable.

[av]My sister was involved in one of these programs after 15 years of experience and she said that the content was marginally interesting, but being able to network with fellow professionals was quite valuable, both the stories and solutions they shared and for future follow up to ask questions of. That seems like quite a pragmatic aspect of this program

[aw]I would think that the networking would be part of the purpose – and this is really true for any research program as well. You basically find that small group of people who are really interested in the same problems in which you are interested so that you can all swap stories, publications, and ideas in order to drive all research forward.

[ax]I agree – I think that academic leadership sees this opportunity more clearly than faculty members who are assigned 10 or 15 grad students to mentor at once, though. ACS is providing some education around this opportunity for new faculty, but it’s a challenge to incorporate mentoring skills along with teaching, research and service duties faculty are handed

[ay]This is why the Community of Inquiry is so important. Community comes first.  I actually have an article on the community of inquiry if anyone is interested.

[az]Reframing things as a community of scholars is very powerful.

[ba]I’d be glad to include any references that you think would be helpful on the web page for this discussion if you would like to share them. We get about 100 views of these pages after they go up, so the impact is not limited to the attendees at a particular session

[bb]How long are the courses? One semester? I often find it difficult for students to finish an in-depth lit review in that time frame.

[bc]This link might also be useful.  https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11135-020-01072-9  It deals with deductive exploratory research and covers many of these themes.

[bd]I very much appreciate the use of this pedagogy as it applies to practical content!

[be]I believe the students that give their courses a good faith effort come away with tools to apply to their work.  We look at the research project as a project management challenge and apply project management ideas throughout. This is sometimes the most important lesson, particularly for the pre-service students.

[bf]This is a very important idea. When I pursued my 1st bachelors, in political science, I was incredibly disappointed to find how much research and practice diverged.

[bg]There is an important distinction here between undergrad and graduate students in higher ed. Traditional undergrads tend to be learning more practical skills outside of the curriculum. I wonder what the experience of non-traditional and community college students are in this regard?

[bh]It does seem like this approach lends itself very well to setting where previous or current experience is required.

Enhancing Research Productivity Through LST’s

On November 4, 2021, CHAS sponsored an ACS webinar presented by 4 current and recent graduate students about their work with Laboratory Safety Teams (LSTs) and why they took up this challenge. A key reason is that the productivity of their work and the safety of their labs are connected by housekeeping issues they faced in the lab.

The recording of the webinar will be available to ACS members soon, but you can review their presentation file here.

The audience provided many questions and comments to the panel. The questions were discussed in the recording available from ACS Webinars. Some of these issues were:

The Impact of Lab Housekeeping

  • Did you ever see serious accidents because of a lack of housekeeping?
  • An audience member responded: A major lab cleanup in the lab where I was finishing up as a graduate student nearly ended in disaster when a waste bottle EXPLODED. Fortunately, no one was present — everyone had left for dinner. Pieces of broken glass were found at the other end of the lab.

Working with the Administration

  • Have there been any situations where your PI encouraged you to deprioritize safety/housekeeping concerns because they did not put emphasis on it? How would you encourage a researcher who is facing this but interested in LSTs?
  • Have you run into management or leadership that is reluctant to implement changes to safety programs? How did you deal with this when not holding a leadership position?
  • How to get students involved in lab safety if PI don’t show interest on the matter?
  • I think a Lab safety team of students is great but I also think a Liaison between the research labs and EHS has proven extremely beneficial because while EHS looks at compliance and waste removal but as Chemists we often are resource for them as well.

Professional Skill Development

  • I have worked on a safety team and found it initially uncomfortable to give feedback to others in regards to housekeeping and safety. How do we support teams so they feel comfortable/empowered to provide feedback to others in their lab?
  • Lab safety is a big priority in industry (as we all know) and experience with lab safety is a GOOD thing to put on your resume. I’m sure comments along these lines helped me get my first industry job.
  • Kudos for all the safety culture building!

LST Strategies

  • Do you think it’s advisable to separate safety leadership in a lab from the responsibilities of a lab manager?
  • What are some strategies for encouraging students to join the LST on their own accord? It seems important that this not be mandatory necessarily, but how do you get people excited about putting more time into something when everyone is stretched pretty thin typically?
  • What fallout has happened, or not, from the fatal lab accident that occurred at UCLA?
  • What hazards do the LST find most frequently?
  • What systematic changes have you seen that are sustainable?
  • What is the gender breakdown of researchers participating in LSTs? As a safety professional I am sensitive to recognizing the majority role women play in participating in “non-promotable” tasks. If a gender discrepancy exists, how can we address it?”

Educational Opportunities

  • Hello, great webinar! This semester I am working with small groups of students from different labs (internship and rotations), and I think working on safety is a great topic to consider as part of the learning process. Any recommendations? greetings from Peru.

If we educate students before they come to the lab , will it benefit of LST?”

For More Information

Safety Culture Transformation – The impact of training on explicit and implicit safety attitudes

On October 27, 2021, the CHAS Journal Club head from the lead author of the paper “Safety culture transformation—The impact of training on explicit and implicit safety attitudes”. The complete open access paper can be found on line at this link. The presentation file used by Nicki Marquadt, the presenting author, includes the graphics and statistical data from the paper.

Comments from the Table Read

On October 20, the journal club did a silent table read of an abridged portion of the article. This version of the article and their comments are below.

1. INTRODUCTION

Safety attitudes of workers and managers have a large impact on safety behavior and performance in many industries (Clarke, 2006, 2010; Ford & Tetrick, 2011, Ricci et al., 2018). They are an integral part of an organizational safety culture[a] and can therefore influence occupational health and safety, organizational reliability, and product safety (Burns et al., 2006; Guldenmund, 2000; Marquardt et al., 2012; Xu et al., 2014).

There are different forms of interventions for safety culture and safety attitude change, trainings are one of them. Safety trainings seek to emphasize the importance of safety behavior and promote appropriate, safety-oriented attitudes among employees[b][c][d][e][f][g][h][i] (Ricci et al., 2016, 2018).-*

However, research in the field of social cognition has shown that attitudes can be grouped in two different forms: On the one hand, there are conscious and reflective so-called explicit attitudes and on the other hand, there are mainly unconscious implicit attitudes (Greenwald & Banaji, 1995). Although there is an ongoing debate whether implicit attitudes are unconscious or partly unconscious (Berger, 2020; Gawronski et al., 2006), most researchers affirm the existence of these two structurally distinctive attitudes (Greenwald & Nosek, 2009). Traditionally, researchers have studied explicit attitudes of employees by using questionnaires [j](e.g., Cox & Cox, 1991; Rundmo, 2000). However, increasingly more researchers now focus on implicit attitudes that can be assessed with reaction time measures like the Implicit Association Test[k][l] (IAT; Greenwald et al., 1998; Ledesma et al., 2015; Marquardt, 2010; Rydell et al., 2006). These implicit attitudes could provide better insights into what influences safety behavior because they are considered to be tightly linked with key safety indicators. Unlike explicit attitudes, they are considered unalterable by social desirable responses (Burns et al., 2006; Ledesma et al., 2018; Marquardt et al., 2012; Xu et al., 2014). Nevertheless, no empirical research on whether implicit and explicit safety attitudes are affected by training could be found yet. Therefore, the aim of this paper is to investigate the effects that training may have on implicit and explicit safety attitudes. The results could be used to draw implications for the improvement of safety training and safety culture development.

1.1 Explicit and implicit attitudes in safety contexts

Explicit attitudes are described as reflected which means a person has conscious control over them[m] (Strack & Deutsch, 2004). In their associative–propositional evaluation (APE) model, Gawronski and Bodenhausen (2006) assume that explicit attitudes are based on propositional processes. These consist of evaluations derived from logical conclusions. In addition, explicit attitudes are often influenced by social desirability[n][o][p][q][r], if the topic is rather sensitive such as moral issues (Maass et al., 2012; Marquardt, 2010; Van de Mortel, 2008). This has also been observed in safety research where, in a study on helmet use, the explicit measure was associated with a Social Desirability Scale (Ledesma et al., 2018). Furthermore, it is said that explicit attitudes can be changed faster and more completely than implicit ones (Dovidio et al., 2001; Gawronski et al., 2017).

On the other hand, implicit attitudes are considered automatic, impulsive, and widely unconscious (Rydell et al., 2006). According to Greenwald and Banaji (1995, p. 5), they can be defined as “introspectively unidentified (or inaccurately identified) traces of past experience” that mediate overt responses. Hence, they use the term “implicit” as a broad label for a wide range of mental states and processes such as unaware, unconscious, intuitive, and automatic which are difficult to identify introspectively by a subject. Gawronski and Bodenhausen (2006) describe implicit attitudes as affective reactions that arise when stimuli activate automatic networks of associations. However, although Gawronski and Bodenhausen (2006) do not deny “that certain affective reactions are below the threshold of experiential awareness” (p. 696), they are critical towards the “potential unconsciousness of implicit attitudes” (p. 696). Therefore, they use the term “implicit” predominantly for the aspect of automaticity of affective reactions. Nevertheless, research has shown that people are not fully aware of the influence of implicit attitudes on their thinking and behavior even though they are not always completely unconscious (Berger, 2020; Chen & Bargh, 1997; De Houwer et al., 2007; Gawronski et al., 2006). Many authors say that implicit attitudes remain more or less stable over time and are hard to change (Charlesworth & Banaji, 2019; Dovidio et al., 2001; Wilson et al., 2000). In line with this, past studies in which attempts were made to change implicit attitudes often failed to achieve significant improvements (e.g., Marquardt, 2016; Vingilis et al., 2015).

1.3 Training and safety attitude change[s][t]

As mentioned in the introduction, the main question of this paper is to find out whether training can change implicit and explicit safety attitudes. Safety training can improve a person’s ability to correctly identify, assess, and respond to possible hazards in the work environment, which in turn can lead to better safety culture (Burke et al., 2006; Duffy, 2003; Wu et al., 2007). Besides individual safety training increasingly more industries such as aviation, medicine, and offshore oil and gas industry implement group trainings labeled as Crew Resource Management (CRM) training to address shared knowledge and task coordination in dynamic and dangerous work settings (Salas et al., 2006).

There are many different factors, which determine the effectiveness of safety trainings (Burke et al., 2006; Ricci et al., 2016) such as the training method (e.g., classroom lectures) and training duration (e.g., 8 h).

As can be seen in Figure 1, it can be stated that associative evaluations[u][v][w][x] (process) can be activated by different safety intervention stimuli such as training (input). These associative evaluations are the foundation for implicit safety attitudes (output) and propositional reasoning (processes), which in turn form the explicit safety attitudes (output). In addition, associative evaluations and propositional reasoning processes affect each other in many complex conscious and unconscious ways (Gawronski & Bodenhausen, 2006). However, change rates might be different. While the propositional processes adapt very quickly to the input (e.g., safety training), the associative evaluations might need longer periods of time for restructuring the associative network (Karpen et al., 2012). Therefore, divergences in the implicit and explicit measures resulting in inconsistent attitudes (output) can occur (McKenzie & Carrie, 2018).

1.4 Hypotheses and overview of the present studies

Based on the theories and findings introduced above, two main hypotheses are presented. Since previous research describes that explicit attitudes can be changed relatively quickly (Dovidio et al., 2001; Karpen et al., 2012), the first hypothesis states that:

  • H1: Explicit safety attitudes can be changed by training.
    Even though implicit attitudes are said to be more stable and harder to change (Dovidio et al.,
    2001; Gawronski et al., 2017; Wilson et al., 2000), changes by training in implicit attitudes can be expected too, due to changes in the associative evaluation processes (Lai et al., 2013) which affect the implicit attitudes (see EISAC model in Figure 1). Empirical research on the subject of implicit attitudinal change through training is scarce (Marquardt, 2016), however, it was shown that an influence on implicit attitudes is possible[y][z][aa] (Charlesworth & Banaji, 2019; Jackson et al., 2014; Lai et al., 2016; Rudman et al., 2001). Therefore, the second hypothesis states that:
  • H2: Implicit safety attitudes can be changed by training.

However, currently, there is a lack of empirical studies on implicit and explicit attitude change using longitudinal designs in different contexts (Lai et al., 2013). Also, in the field of safety training research, studies are needed to estimate training effectiveness over time (Burke et al., 2006). Therefore, to address the issues of time and context in safety attitude change by training, three studies with different training durations and measurement time frames in different safety-relevant contexts were conducted (see Table 1). In the first study, the short-term attitude change was measured 3 days prior and after a 2-h safety training in a chemical laboratory. In the second study, the medium-term attitude change was assessed 1 month prior and after a 2 days of CRM training for production workers. In the third study, the long-term attitude changes were measured within an advanced experimental design (12 months between pre- and post-measure) after a 12 weeks of safety ethics training in an occupational psychology student sample.[ab] To make this paper more succinct and to ease the comparability of used methods and reveled results, all three studies will be presented in parallel in the following method, results, and discussion sections. A summary table of all the studies can be seen in Table 1.

2. METHODS

Study 1

Fifteen participants (eight female and seven were male; mean age = 22.93 years; SD = 2.74) were recruited for the first study. The participants were from different countries with a focus on east and south Asia (e.g., India, Bangladesh, and China). They were enrolled in one class of an international environmental sciences study program with a major focus on practical experimental work in chemical and biological laboratories in Germany. Participation in regular safety training was mandatory for all participants to be admitted to working in these laboratories. To ensure safe working in the laboratories, the environmental sciences study program has traditionally small classes of 15–20 students. Hence, the sample represents the vast majority of one entire class of this study program. However, due to the lockdown caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, there was no opportunity to increase the sample size in a subsequent study. Consequently, the sample size was very small.

2.1.2 Study 2

A sample of 81 German assembly-line workers of an automotive manufacturer participated in Study 2. The workers were grouped into self-directed teams responsible for gearbox manufacturing. Hence, human error during the production process could threaten the health and safety of the affected workers and also the product safety of the gearbox which in turn affects the health and safety of prospective consumers. The gearbox production unit encompassed roughly 85 workers. Thus, the sample represents the vast majority of the production unit’s workforce. Due to the precondition of the evaluation being anonymous, as requested by the firm’s work council, personal data such as age, sex, and qualification could not be collected.

2.1.3 Study 3

In Study 3, complete data sets of 134 German participants (mean age = 24.14; SD = 5.49; 92 female, 42 male) could be collected. All participants were enrolled in Occupational Psychology and International Business study programs with a special focus on managerial decision making under uncertainty and risks. The sample represents the vast majority of two classes of this study program since one class typically includes roughly 60–70 students. Furthermore, 43 of these students also had a few years of work experience (mean = 4.31; SD = 4.07).

4. DISCUSSION

4.1 Discussion of results

The overall research objective of this paper was to find out about the possibility of explicit and implicit safety attitude changes by training. Therefore, two hypotheses were created. H1 stated that explicit safety attitudes can be changed by training. H2 stated that implicit safety attitudes can be changed by training. Based on the results of Studies 1–3, it can be concluded that explicit safety attitudes can be changed by safety training. In respect of effect sizes, significant small effects (Study 2), medium effects (Study 1), and even large effects (Study 3) were observed. Consequently, the first hypothesis (H1) was supported by all three studies. Nevertheless, compared to the meta-analytic results by Ricci et al. (2016) who obtained very large effect sizes, the effects of training on the explicit safety attitudes were lower in the present studies. In contrast, none of the three studies revealed significant changes in the implicit safety attitudes after the training. Even though there were positive changes in the post-measures, the effect sizes were marginal and nonsignificant. Accordingly, the second hypothesis (H2) was not confirmed in any of these three studies. In addition, it seems that the duration of safety training (e.g., 2 h, 2 days, or even 12 weeks) has no effect on the implicit attitudes[ac][ad][ae][af][ag][ah]. However, the effect sizes of short-term and medium-term training of Studies 1 and 2 were larger than those obtained in the study by Lai et al. (2016), whose effect sizes were close to zero after the follow-up measure 2–4 days after the intervention.

The results obtained in these studies differ with regard to effect size. This can partly be explained by the characteristics of the sample. For instance, in Studies 1 and 3, the participants of the training, as well as the control groups (Study 3 only), were students from occupational psychology and environmental sciences degree programs. Therefore, all students—even those of the control groups—are familiar with concepts of health and safety issues, sustainability, and prosocial behavior. Consequently, the degree programs could have had an impact on the implicit sensitization of the students which might have caused high values in implicit safety attitudes even in the control groups. The relatively high IAT-effects in all four groups prior and after the training are therefore an indication of a ceiling effect in the third study (see Table 3). This is line with the few empirical results gained by previous research in the field of implicit and explicit attitude change by training (Jackson et al., 2014; Marquardt, 2016). Specifically, Jackson et al. (2014) have also found a ceiling effect in the favorable implicit attitudes towards women in STEM of female participants, who showed no significant change in implicit attitudes after a diversity training.[ai][aj][ak]

Finally, it seems that the implicit attitudes were mainly unaffected by the training. The IAT data have shown no significant impact in any group comparison or pre- and post-measure comparison. To conclude, based on the current results it can be assumed that when there is a training effect, then it manifests itself in the explicit and not the implicit safety attitudes. One explanation might be that implicit safety attitudes are more stable unconscious dispositions which cannot be easily changed like explicit ones (Charlesworth & Banaji, 2019; Dovidio et al., 2001; Wilson et al., 2000). In respect of the EISAC model (see Section 1.3), unconscious associative evaluations might be activated by safety training, but not sustainably changed. A true implicit safety attitude change would refer to a shift in associative evaluations that persist across multiple safety contexts and over longer periods of time (Lai et al., 2013).[al][am]

5. PRACTICAL IMPLICATIONS AND CONCLUSION

What do the current empirical results mean for safety culture and training development? Based on the assumption that the implicit attitudes are harder to change (Gawronski et al., 2017) and thus may require active engagement via the central route of conviction (Petty & Cacioppo, 1986), this could be an explanation why there was no change in Study 1. This assumption is supported by the meta-analysis of Burke et al. (2006), who found large effect sizes for highly engaging training methods (e.g., behavior modeling, feedback, safety dialog) in general, and by the meta-analysis of Ricci et al. (2016) who obtained large effect sizes on attitudes in particular. However, the more engaging training methods such as interactive tutorials, case analyses, cooperative learning phases, role plays, and debriefs (structured group discussions)—which have proved strong meta-analytic effects (Ricci et al., 2016)—used in Studies 2 (CRM training) and 3 (Safety ethics training) did have a significant impact on the explicit but not implicit attitude change[an][ao]. In addition, it seems that more intense training with longer duration (e.g., such as 12 weeks in Study 3) has again no effect on the implicit attitude change. Therefore, maybe other approaches [ap][aq]can be more promising.

To sum up, even though the outlined conclusions are tentative, it could be very useful in the future to design realistic and affect-inducing training simulations via emergency simulators or virtual reality approaches[ar][as][at][au][av] [aw][ax][ay][az][ba](Sacks et al., 2013; Seymour et al., 2002) for all highly hazardous industries. If these simulations are accompanied by highly engaging behavioral (e.g., behavioral modeling; Burke et al., 2006, 2011), social (e.g., debriefs/structured group discussions; Ricci et al., 2016), and cognitive (e.g., implementation intentions; Lai et al., 2016) training methods, then they might facilitate a positive explicit and even implicit safety attitude change and finally a sustainable safety culture transformation.

[a]A theoretical question that occurs to me when reading this is:

Is “an organizational safety culture” the sum of the safety attitudes of workers and management or is there a synergy among these attitudes that creates a non-linear feedback effect?

[b]I would not have thought of this as the purpose of discreet trainings. I would have thought that the purpose of trainings is to teach the skills necessary to do a job safely.

[c]I agree. Safety Trainings are about acquiring skills to operate safely in a specific process…the collective (Total Environment) affects safety behavior.

[d]I think this could go back to the point below about fostering the environment – safety trainings communicating that safety is a part of the culture here.

[e]Safety professionals (myself included) have historically misused the term “training” to refer to what are really presentations.

[f]Agreed. I always say something that happens in a lecture hall with my butt in a chair is probably not a “training.” While I see the point made above, many places have “trainings” simply because they are legally required to have them. It says little to nothing about the safety culture of the whole environment.

[g]Maybe they go more into the actual training types used in the manuscript, but we typically start in a lecture hall and then move into the labs for our trainings, so I would still classify what we have as a training, but I can see what you mean about a training being more like a presentation in some cases.

[h]This is something I struggle with…but I’m trying to refer to the lecture style component as a safety presentation and the actual working with spill kits as a safety training.  It has been well-received!

[i]This is a core question and has been an ongoing struggle ever since I started EHS training in an education-oriented environment.

As a result, over time I have moved my educational objectives from content based (e.g. what is an MSDS?) to awareness based (what steps should you take when you have a safety question). However, the EHS community is sloppy when talking about training and education, which are distinct activities.

[j]Looks like these would be used for more factual items such as evaluating what the researcher did, not how/why they did it

[k]I’m skeptical that IATs are predictive of real-world behavior in all, or even most, circumstances. I’d be more interested in an extension of this work that looks at whether training (or “training”) changes revealed preferences based on field observations.

[l]Yes – much more difficult to do but also much more relevant. I would be more interested in seeing if decision-making behavior changes under certain circumstances. This would tell you if training was effective or not.

[m]This is a little confusing to me but sounds like language that makes sense in another context.

[n]What are the safety-related social desirabilities of chemistry grad students?

[o]I would think these would be tied to not wanting to “get in trouble.”

[p]Also, likely linked to being wrong about something chemistry-related.

[q]What about the opposite? Not wear PPE to be cool?

[r]In my grad student days, I was primarily learning how to “fake it until I make it”. This often led to the imposter syndrome being socially desirable. This probably arose from the ongoing awareness of grading and other judgement systems that the academic environment relies on

[s]Were study participants aware or were the studies conducted blind? If I am an employee and I know my progress will be measured, I may behave differently than if I had not known.

[t]This points back to last week’s article.

[u]What are some other ways to activate our associative evaluations?

[v]I would think it would include things like witnessing your lab mates follow safety guidance, having your PI explicitly ask you about risk assessment on your experiments, having safety issues remedied quickly by your facility. Basically, the norms you would associate with your workplace.

[w]Right, I just wonder if there’d be another way besides the training (input) to produce the intended change in the associative evaluation process we go through to form an implicit attitude. We definitely have interactions on a daily basis which can influence that, but is there some other way to tell our subconscious mind something is important.

[x]In the days before social media, we used social marketing campaigns that were observably successful, but they relied on a core of career lab techs who supported a rotating cast of medical researchers. The lab techs were quite concerned about both their own safety and the quality of their science as a result of the 3 to 6 month rotation of the MD/PhD researchers.

The social marketing campaigns included 1) word of mouth, 2) supporting graphical materials and 3) ongoing EHS presence in labs to be the bad guys on behalf of the career lab techs

[y]This reminds me of leading vs lagging indicators for cultural change

[z]This also makes me think of the arguments around “get the hands to do the right things and the attitudes will follow” which is along the lines of what Geller describes.

[aa]That’s a great comparison. Emphasizes the importance of embedding it throughout the curriculum to be taught over long periods of time

[ab]A possible confounding variable here would have to do with how much that training was reinforced between the training and the survey period. 12 months out (or even 3 months out) a person may not even remember what was said or done in that specific training, so their attitudes are likely to be influenced by what has been happening in the mean time.

[ac]I don’t find this surprising. I would imagine that what was happening in the mean time (outside of the training) would have a larger impact on implicit attitudes.

[ad]I was really hoping to see a comparison using the same attitude time frame for the 3 different training durations. Like a short-term, medium, and long-term evaluation of the attitudes for all 3 training durations, but maybe this isn’t how things are done in these kinds of studies.

[ae]This seems to be the trouble with many of the behavioral sciences papers I read, where you can study what is available not something that lines up with your hypothesis

[af]I really would probably have been more interested in the long-term evaluation for the medium training duration personally to see their attitude over a longer period of time, for example.

[ag]I think this is incredibly hard to get right though. An individual training is rarely impactful enough for people to remember it. And lots of stuff happens in between when you take the training and when you are “measured” that could also impact your safety attitudes. If the training you just went through isn’t enforced by anyone anywhere, what value did it really have? Alternatively, if people already do things the right way, then the training may have just helped you learn how to do everything right – but was it the training or the environment that led to positive implicit safety attitudes? Very difficult to tease apart in reality.

[ah]Yeah, maybe have training follow-ups or an assessment of some sorts to determine if information was retained to kind of evaluate the impact the training had on other aspects as well as the attitudes.

[ai]What effect does this conclusion have on JEDI or DEI training?

[aj]I also found this point to be very interesting. I wonder if this paper discussed explicit attitudes. I’m not sure what explicit vs implicit attitudes would mean in a DEI context because they seem more interrelated (unconscious bias, etc.)

[ak]I am also curious how Implicit Attitude compares to Unconscious Bias.

[al]i.e. Integrated across the curriculum over time?

[am]One challenge I see here is the competing definitions of “safety”. There are chemical safety, personal security, community safety,  social safety all competing for part of the safety education pie. I think this is why many people’s eyes glaze over when safety training is brought up or presented

[an]The authors mention that social desirability is one reason explicit and implicit attitudes can diverge, but is it the only reason, or even the primary reason? I’m somehwat interested in the degree to which that played a role here (though I’m also still not entirely sure how much I care whether someone is a “true believer” when it comes to safety or just says/does all the right things because they know it’s expected of them).

[ao]This is a good point.

[ap]I am curious to learn more about these approaches.

[aq]I believe the author discusses more thoroughly in the full paper

[ar]Would these trainings only be for emergencies or all trainings? I feel that a lot of times we are told what emergencies might pop up and how you would handle them but never see them in action. This reminds me of a thought I had about making a lab safety-related video game that you could “fail” on handling an emergency situation in lab but you wouldn’t have the direct consequences in the real world.

[as]Love that idea, it makes sense that you would remember it better if you got to walk through the actual process. I wonder what the effect of engagement would be on implicit and explicit attitudes.

[at]Absolutely – I think valuable learning moments come from doing the action and it honestly would be safer to learn by making mistakes in a virtual environment when it comes to our kind of safety. The idea reminds me of the  tennis video games I used to play when I was younger and they helped me learn how to keep score in tennis. Now screen time would be a concern, but something like this could be looked at in some capacity.

[au]This idea is central to trying to bring VR into training. Obviously, you can’t actually have someone spill chemical all over themselves, etc – but VR makes it so you virtually could. And there are papers suggesting that the brain “reads” things happening in the VR world as if they really happened. Although one has to be careful with this because that also opens up the possibility that you could actually traumatize someone in the VR world.

[av]I know I was traumatized just jumping into a VR game where you fell through hoops (10/10 don’t recommend falling-based VR games), but maybe less of a VR game and more of like a cartoon character that they can customize so they see the impact exposure to different chemicals could have but they don’t have that traumatic experience of being burned themselves,for example.

[aw]In limited time and/or limited funding situations, how can academia utilize these training methodologies? Any creative solutions?

[ax]I’m also really surprised that the conclusion is to focus on training for the worker. I would think that changing attitudes (explicit and implicit) would have more to do with the environment that one works in than it does on a specific training.

[ay]I agree on this. I think the environment one finds themselves plays a part in shaping one’s attitudes and behaviors.

[az]AGREED

[ba]100% with the emphasis on the environment rather than the training

Graduate Student Safety Education

At the 2019, San Diego National Meeting CHAS hosted a symposium on Graduate Student Safety Education. The presentations from this symposium are provided below.

Safety communication is about respect as well as numbers. R. Stuart

How to train with nothing. S. George, H. Davis- Russell, J. de la Rosa Ducut

Development of a short course for collateral duty safety advisors in academic research laboratories. M.C. Wasson, M. Blayney

Secrets to success: Show up, do. M.C. J.A. Martin

Safety minutes: Consistent way to promote and sustain the commitment to research safety. L. Redfern, M. Blayney

GAs are EHS @ USD. C.M. Karki

Periodic table of Safety Elements Updated

The Division, in partnership with the Princeton University Department of Environmental Health and Safety, published its first version of a Periodic Table of the Elements of Safety in spring of 2019. We’re pleased to provide an updated version in time for the Fall, 2019 ACS national meeting. The updated version expands the “safety martyrs” section to better recognize the history of laboratory safety and also includes tweaks to some of the other elements.

You can download the periodic table in a format suitable for 11×17 printing here

A two-sided brochure that explains the various elements can be downloaded here

If you want to print a poster sized version of the table, these files are sized appropriately for this purpose.

You can also explore the different sections of the table with this interactive “hot spot” graphic.

Organic Class Lab Safety Topics Survey results

With the support of an ACS Innovative Project Grant, the ACS Division of Chemical Health and Safety is partnering with the Division of Chemical Information and ACS Safety Advisory Panel to develop teaching resources to help students in undergraduate organic teaching labs develop hazard identification and risk assessment skills appropriate to their work in the lab. To help us with this work, we developed a survey about organic chemistry laboratory courses taught at the undergraduate level.

With the help of the DCHAS-L e-mail list, we were able to get thoughts from 63 people about the most important organic teaching laboratory exercises to consider in our work as well as some general information about safety practices they employ in this setting.

You can review the detailed results of this survey here:

We’d also appreciate it if you would share with us information about a question we forgot to ask in the first survey: What are your requirements for PPE in the organic teaching lab?

[sform]6[/sform]

If you would like to share any thoughts on this work, please send them to Ralph Stuart at membership@dchas.org

Presidential Symposium on Moving ACS’s Safety Goals Forward

Organizer: Dr. Peter Dorhout

Introductory Remarks. Dr. Dorhout
Safety in the Context of the ACS Strategic Plan. R. Stuart
Chemical Safety Information Opportunities. C. Nitsche

Communicating Chemical Safety K. Jeskie
Empowering ACS Members to Be Safety Leaders. K. Serrano
Industrial perspective on chemical safety – The Corporation Associates direction. D. Mason

Partnering to strengthen safety. J. Maclachlan
Developing an Education Path for all Chemists. D. Finster

Building a Chemical Safety Ecosystem. L. McEwen
Strategic connections between Chemical Safety and Green Chemistry. J. Wissinger

Playing with Fire: Chemical Safety Expertise Required

Samuella B. Sigmann*of Appalachian State University in Boone, North Carolina and incoming chair of DCHAS authored a Journal of Chemical Education article on the ongoing history of flammable liquid incidents in educational settings. The article was chosen as an editor’s choice for August and is now available on an open access basis for free download.
Congratulations, Sammye!

JCHAS Editor’s Spotlight: Chemical safety education for the 21st century

The Editor’s Spotlight for the May / June 2018 issue of the Journal of Chemical Health and Safety is shining on:

Chemical safety education for the 21st century — Fostering safety information competency in chemists by
Samuella Sigmann

The abstract for this article is:

During the education process, each person strives to acquire the necessary skill set or set of competencies needed to be successful in their selected career. For example, a job listing for a bench chemist might state that the successful applicant should have a BS in chemistry, (knowledge), be familiar with common laboratory operations (skills), and be a contributing member of a team (attitude). It is our job as curriculum designers and educators to give our students the competencies they will need to be successful. The chemistry curriculum must include those competencies needed for working safely in a chemistry research laboratory.

This can be accomplished by weaving the knowledge component of competencies spirally into the chemistry major’s curriculum. We cannot assume that a student who has successfully completed a bachelor’s degree in chemistry has acquired the necessary competencies to perform a risk assessment or read a safety data sheet (SDS). Skill-based laboratory activity is valuable and can be specifically transferred to the next task, but knowledge and attitudes assist future learning in a nonspecific transfer and must be taught as ideas and principles. This work looks at the competencies required to be a chemist from an historical point and suggests ways that chemical safety information can be infused into the twenty-first century chemistry curriculum using embedded safety professionals, risk assessment, and SDSs to broaden and deepen safety knowledge.

This article and the rest of the issue can be found at ScienceDirect site

Also included in this issue of JCHAS are:

Chemical safety information in the 21st century
Ralph Stuart

Collecting reaction incident information: Engaging the community in sharing safety learnings
Carmen I. Nitsche, Gabrielle Whittick, Mark Manfredi

Baseline survey of academic chemical safety information practices
Leah McEwen, Ralph Stuart, Ellen Sweet, Robin Izzo

The chemical safety gateway: Beyond Google’s limitations
Abe Lederman, Sol Lederman

ACS’s Hazard Assessment in Research Laboratories website: An important safety culture tool
Kendra Leahy Denlinger

A Quick Overview of Classroom Flammable Liquid Hazards

Tragic, preventable incidents continue to occur during K-12 science demonstrations involving flammable materials. 

Despite communication efforts and safety alerts sent out by the American Chemical Society, the US Chemical Safety BoardNational Fire Protection Association, and National Science Teachers Association, tragic and preventable incidents are occurring during science demonstrations involving flammable materials.  Most recently, another incident “Four students injured in science experiment gone wrong at Bronx school” occurred on November 22, 2017 at an high school academy in New York City.

A dangerous approach: Uncontained flammable liquids burning in dishes with excess fuel nearby and inadequate ventilation.. Much safer: Soaking wooden splints in salts and viewing the colors produced by burning the splint.

Since 2006, over 90 children have been burned in these incidents, some as young as 3 yrs old. For links to articles and dates of these incidents are available upon request.

Calais Weber was burned on over 40% of her body in 2006 at Western Reserve Academy in Ohio. (Source US Chemial Safety Board) Dane Neuberger, a ninth grader in Minnesota who was one of four students burned in a science demonstration involving methanol. “My face was actually on fire,” he told local media.
(Photograph: Richard Tsong Taatarii/Minneapolis Star Tribune)

Why Does This Keep Happening?

In many of the cases where injuries have occurred, the demonstrator has tried to sustain the flame by adding additional fuel to a hot evaporating dish or a dish where the methanol flame has not gone out, but is not visible. When a 1- or 4- liter container is used by the demonstrator, a phenomenon known as “flame-jetting” can occur.  A NFPA Sep/Oct 2017 article explains flame jetting with images from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) testing at the Fire Research Lab (FRL).

The ATF FRL testing found that flame jetting:

  • Occurred in all 49 tests using ethyl alcohol in various types and sizes of containers, including glass and plastic containers in one-liter and one-gallon sizes, the sizes used in the rainbow demonstration incidents.
  • Flame jets in excess of 15 feet occurred during testing. This is consistent with witness statements and fire damage in the classrooms.
  • The entire jetting event lasted less than one second, with no observable warning signs prior to the phenomenon. When jetting did occur, there was no evidence of thermal or pressure damage to the container.
  • Some flammable liquids such as fresh gasoline are able to release flammable vapors readily enough that the headspace never drops below the upper flammable limit and therefore does not support flame propagation within the container. Weathered gasoline, by comparison, is slower to release vapors and can support flame propagation inside the container, leading to flame jetting.

Similar incidents have occurred with portable plastic gas cans that lack flame arresters, resulting in over 11 deaths and 1200 emergency room visits.

Flame jetting is most likely to happen when:

  • The temperature of the fuel is room temperature or lower, so vapors collect in the container, instead of evaporating out of it and only move when poured out.
  • The pouring angle allows vapors to travel out and flash back inside the container. when the container is upright, the head space above the liquid is too fuel-rich and above the upper flammability limit, meaning that combustion is not supported within the container. As the container is tilted and vapors begin to pour from the open mouth, however, air is entrained into the head space and the fuel-rich mixture eventually falls within the flammable limits; if an ignition source is present and combustion occurs, the flame propagation condition inside the container can lead to flame jetting.
  • There is little fuel left in the can, making it easier for flashback to get through the bottle opening.



Figure from http://www.notyourturntoburn.com/flame-arresters/

What Can Be Done?

Flame arresters have been shown in testing to prevent flame jetting from portable flammable liquid containers that would otherwise produce jets in certain conditions.

The organization Not your turn to burn, which has been organized by mothers of burn victims, has extensive information about the mechanisms behind flame jetting and advocates for flame arresters in The Portable Fuel Container Safety Act of 2017, currently in committee, would require flame arresters on portable flammable liquid containers. Fire prevention advocates say that adding a flame arrester to the opening of a container costs when the container is manufactured will cost less than 50 cents on most portable fuel containers.

This phenomenon is not unknown to the ethanol industry and some manufacturers routinely install flash arresters such the grates on alcoholic beverages such as this Bacardi 151, as manufacturers are aware of flaming drinks.

Flame arresters are required by OSHA for workplace use but not by Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC); many feel that making a packaging option on bottles of common alcohols similar to those on alcoholic beverages could prevent more household tragedies.

Action Items:

  1. Please share the following resources and reminders with your local schools districts and teachers to try to spread the word regarding the dangers of these types of experiments and safer alternatives.
  2. Encourage your congressional representatives to support H.R.919: Portable Fuel Container Safety Act of 2017. It has 31 co-sponsors and is currently in the House Energy and Commerce committee. Letter templates available at http://www.notyourturntoburn.com/letters-articles/
  3. Share with everyone to NEVER add flammable liquids to an open flame. This can lead to FLAME jetting, Use containers with flash arresters.
  4. Petition container manufacturers to sell flame arrester liners compatible with common caps of flammable liquid containers.
  5. Petition chemical manufacturers to add flame arresters to bottles of flammable liquids, similar to the Safety-pour technology provided on bottles available from Lumina Products (https://youtu.be/AS5WDA7mAvw)

Resources

National Science Teachers Association resources

National Fire Protection Association

Template for writing local school officials on this issue

Superintendent
School District
Address

Dear Dr. Superintendent:
As a parent of a current student/ scientist/ concerned community member/ member of the American Chemical Society’s (ACS) Division of Chemical Health and Safety- I’m writing to you today to ensure that you were aware of recent accidents involving unsafe scientific demonstrations and that your district has policies in place for ensuring the safety of scientific demonstrations in your schools. In addition, I would like to make you aware of information that ACS produced specifically related to the safe handling of chemicals for educational purposes.
The driving force behind my correspondence today was the recent report of several students being injured during a “chemistry experiment gone wrong”. Details on this specific event are still slim, but unfortunately seem to be consistent with several recent events in which students have been injured during demonstrations involving flammable materials. One such experiment, the ‘rainbow demonstration’ has been the cause of numerous accidents resulting in severe student and teacher injuries. In spite of many news reports and multi-million-dollar settlements- these accidents continue to happen.
So we are reaching out directly to our local school districts and teachers to try to spread the word regarding the dangers of these types of experiments and safer alternatives. The ACS, National Fire Protection Agency, and the US Chemical Safety Board have all created documents highlighting these dangers and guidelines for providing safe and educational demonstration. I’ve included several links to these (free) resources below and would be glad to discuss this more with you if desired.
Sincerely,
Your Name,
Address and Phone