There are many different kinds of hazards associated with laboratory work and sometimes these hazards results in unforeseen safety incidents. No one knows how often such laboratory incidents occur, but over the last several years, high profile laboratory events have raised public concern about them. This concern was crystallized in the Chemical Safety Board’s 2011 reporton academic laboratory safety.
In order to address the concerns raised by the CSB, the Division of Chemical Health and Safety of the ACS, the Laboratory Health and Safety Section of the American Industrial Hygiene Association, and Campus Safety Health and Environmental Management Association believe that it is important to take advantage of the learning opportunities such incidents represent. Therefore, we have joined together to develop a form which we believe will be an effective tool for collecting appropriate information to develop “Lessons Learned” from such events.
These incidents can include events which result in injuries, financial or scientific losses, near-misses, and safety observations. Our motivation for collecting this information is for many reasons:
- To avoid having the same incident occur again;
- To enhance safety awareness of laboratory workers as they conduct routine work;
- To support the lateral thinking required to develop “what if” scenarios when planning laboratory work;
- To improve emergency planning for response to laboratory events
- To identify successful health and safety protection measures;
- To provide stories that can add interest to safety training efforts; and
- To help laboratory safety managers correctly prioritize their concerns.
Currently, a variety of laboratory organizations have developed “lessons learned” programs. Examples of these programs can be found at:
- Berkeley Lab Lessons Learned Program at http://www.lbl.gov/ehs/Lessons/
- AIHA Laboratory Health and Safety Committee at https://www.aiha.org/get-involved/VolunteerGroups/LabHSCommittee/Pages/Lessons-Learned.aspx
- Texas Tech University Safety@TTU: Lessons Learned at http://www.depts.ttu.edu/vpr/integrity/lessons-learned/index.php
- University of California Berkley Lessons Learned at http://ehs.berkeley.edu/lessons-learned-uc-berkeley
- Yale University http://ehs.yale.edu/lessons-learned
We recognize that there are many laboratories located in organizations too small to support health and safety professionals. To assist these laboratories pursue similar goals, we have developed an on line incident review questionnaire. The intent of this questionaire is to help people collect the appropriate information following a laboratory incident which can help put the incident in the context of the elements of a well-developed safety program.
When information about such incidents are submitted via this web form, found at https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/chas_ll_beta, the information will be reviewed for completeness and then added to the library of incidents being collected on the ACS DCHAS web site. To address potential concerns about public discussion of incidents, these reports will have information related to the specific people and institutions involved in the incident removed.
It is important to recognize that all lab health and safety incidents (including injury-free events) should be systematically investigated to determine the direct, indirect and, if possible, root causes, and to identify the corrective measures necessary to reliably prevent reoccurrence. Additionally the organization’s health and safety professionals should be involved in these incident investigations, at least in a consultative or oversight capacity to assure high quality review. The knowledge gained through the investigations and communicated via the ACS Lessons Learned website will provide a valuable service to many and perhaps help to prevent similar injuries elsewhere.
By submitting an incident into this system, laboratory workers and management can participate in the ongoing national effort to improve laboratory conditions for all scientists. Questions about this effort can be directed to email@example.com