Online Program

Creating a Culture of Safety Across Multiple Institutions in a DOE Funded Research Hub

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Steve Rupkey, CIH, Environmental, Health and Quality Assursance Division, Argonne National Laboratory, Argonne, IL
An undergraduate researcher died in 2009 from injuries sustained in a research laboratory accident.  According to the Laboratory Safety Institute 15 researchers have died in laboratory accidents since this tragic incident.  In 2010 another laboratory accident resulted in a graduate student losing three fingers, burning his face and hands and injuring an eye.  According to the Chemical Safety Board one of the contributing factors to this accident was that the funding agency for his research missed an opportunity to influence safety.

Most private and governmental institutions have learned that overlooking safety could have negative personal, professional and financial effects. Generally, universities have not had these pressures on their safety programs. For one, students are not considers employees under OSHA and are not subject to OSHA regulations.  Documents such as Safe Science: Promoting a Culture of Safety in Academic Chemical Research, support the need for fostering and promoting a culture of safety among academic researchers to improve their safety performance. 

Among the challenges of managing safety in a chemical research laboratory is the sheer volume of chemicals and tasks that can be performed and manipulated at any given moment. Highly educated researchers also desire the freedom to experiment without numerous restrictions.  Additionally, many researchers have not been adequately trained to identify, evaluate and control the hazards they encounter.

The responsibility for researcher health and safety rests with each institution; however, funding agencies have an obligation to influence the safety of their funded researchers.  Several safety influencing program options will be discussed.

Learning Areas:

Administration, management, leadership
Occupational health and safety
Program planning

Learning Objectives:
Explain why academic research institutions are in need of a safety culture overhaul. List the challenges of managing safety and health in a laboratory research setting. Identify the challenges of implementing laboratory research safety and health oversight programs at partner institutions.

Keyword(s): Occupational Health and Safety, Chemical Exposures & Prevention

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I am the Safety Lead for a US DOE funded research hub called The Joint Center for Energy Storage Research (JCESR). The JCESR is comprised of 20 institutions that include private, university and national laboratory partners. My direct experiences in this role and the lessons I've learned qualify me to present on this topic. Additionally, I have over 25 years of experience in the fields of occupational health and safety.
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.

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