237765 Using Transparency to Increase Awareness of Chemical Hazards in University Laboratories

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Miriam Weil, MPH, Doctoral Student , School of Health and Environment, Work Environment Department, University of Massachusetts, Lowell, Lowell, MA
Background and Objectives: The goal of this project was to demonstrate how access to improved chemical information increases understanding of chemical hazards and improves the effectiveness of chemical management in university research laboratories. Methods: The study was conducted using interviews, hypothetical problem sets and observations to document subjects' reactions to information on several websites to determine the ability of the information to be absorbed and accepted (embeddedness ). Both technically trained (graduate students) and non-technically chemical trained personnel (custodians, laboratory technicians) who have contact with chemicals at two major research universities in Massachusetts were recruited. This study's three components are: 1. Design an exercise to evaluate users' experience with web-based sources of chemical hazard information. 2. Evaluate the embeddedness of the information; and 3. Observe how the searches were conducted. The Exercise consisted of four components: 1. Pre-test. Test subjects' a priori knowledge of chemical toxicity. 2, 3. Website Exercises. Subjects perform hypothetical exercises involving potential chemical exposures and search for answers using seven publicly available websites. 4. Post-test. Observe the subjects' experiences based on keystroke tracking and exercises. Compare across and within the groups. Conduct open-ended interviews with participants following completion of the exercise. Results: Initial results indicate that levels of education and experience influence website preferences. In addition, embeddedness varies with experience and compatibility of sources. Conclusions: The research provided insight into the benefits of enhanced chemical safety information for students and lab workers, and has implications for occupational safety and health profession and work environment policy makers.

Learning Areas:
Occupational health and safety

Learning Objectives:
1. Evaluate whether access to improved chemical information can increase the understanding of chemical hazards and improve the effectiveness of decision making about chemical safety in university research laboratories. 2. Assess whether the arrangement of chemical information and the language used influence users to take actions to minimize or prevent exposures. 3. Compare the information needs of technically-trained versus non-technically trained people.

Keywords: Occupational Health, Internet

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: This project is work I have conducted as doctoral research.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.