Online Program

What do we know about laboratory safety culture?

Wednesday, November 6, 2013 : 8:42 a.m. - 8:54 a.m.

Ralph Stuart III, MS CIH, Environmental Health and Safety, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY
Interest in safety culture as part of safety management strategy has two roots. The first is the search for a leading indicator of exceptional events. The second is as a retrospective explanation of why such an event occurred within a particular organization.

Unfortunately, neither of these approaches to the concept provide a method for identifying and measuring indicators of safety cultures. This is not for lack of trying; particularly since the mid-1980's as the size of industrial disasters has grown, much academic and management energy has gone into surveying workforces to assess their collective attitudes towards well identified risks and ways to control those risks. A recent survey of the literature found over 200 articles on the topic, most of them written since 2000.

There is also a backlash to this trend; sociologists who have studied culture within groups are concerned that using culture as a tool confuses the meaning of the term. Additionally, sociologists are hard-pressed to say how the “safety culture” of an organization can be separated from the larger aspects of an organization's culture.

This presentation will look at how this concept has been applied to the academic laboratory population. This use of the term is of specific interest in this field because the term was identified as an important component of safety management in this setting by the National Research Council in its Prudent Practices in the Laboratory publication and recent discussions around specific laboratory accidents.

Learning Areas:

Administration, management, leadership
Communication and informatics
Occupational health and safety
Planning of health education strategies, interventions, and programs
Social and behavioral sciences

Learning Objectives:
Identify the opportunities and challenges presented by considering "safety culture" as a tool to improve laboratory safety programs

Keyword(s): Occupational Safety, Management

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: As the Secretary of the Division of Chemical Health and Safety of the American Chemical Society, I have organized two of the surveys discussed.
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.