hygiene officer (CHO) or safety director; responsibility for working safely, however, lies with those scientists, technicians, faculty, students, and others who actually do the work. A detailed organizational chart with regard to each individual’s responsibility for chemical hygiene can be a valuable addition to the Chemical Hygiene Plan (CHP). (See Chapter 2, section 2.B.)

In course work, laboratory instructors carry direct responsibility for actions taken by students. Instructors are responsible for promoting a culture of safety as well as for teaching the requisite skills needed to handle chemicals safely.

As federal, state, and local regulations became more stringent, institutions developed infrastructures to oversee compliance. Most industrial, governmental, and academic organizations that maintain laboratory operations have an EHS office staffed with credentialed professionals. These individuals have a collective expertise in chemical safety, industrial hygiene, engineering, biological safety, environmental health, environmental management (air, water, waste), occupational medicine, health physics, fire safety, and toxicology.

EHS offices consult on or manage hazardous waste issues, accident reviews, inspections and audits, compliance monitoring, training, record keeping, and emergency response. They assist laboratory management in establishing policies and promoting high standards of laboratory safety. To be most effective, they should partner with department chairpersons, safety directors, CHOs, principal investigators or managers, and laboratory personnel to design safety programs that provide technical guidance and training support that are relevant to the operations of the laboratory, are practical to carry out, and comply with existing codes and regulations.

In view of the importance of these offices, safety directors should be highly knowledgeable in the field and given responsibility for the development of a unified safety program, which will be vetted by institutional authorities and implemented by all. As a result, EHS directors should also have direct access, when necessary, to those senior authorities in the institution who are ultimately accountable to the public.


Academic laboratories, like industrial and governmental laboratories, are concerned with meeting the fundamental safety goals of minimizing accidents and injuries, but there are differences. Forming the foundation for a lifelong attitude of safety consciousness, risk assessment, and prudent laboratory practice is an integral part of every stage of scientific education—from classroom to laboratory and from primary school through postdoctoral training. Teaching and academic institutions must accept this unique responsibility for attitude development.

Resources are limited and administration must provide support for teachers who are not subject matter experts. The manifold requirements for record keeping and waste handling can be especially burdensome for overworked teachers in high school or college laboratories. Institutions with graduate programs teach, but they also conduct research activities that often involve unpredictable hazards. The safety goals and the allocation of resources to achieve them are sufficiently different for high school, undergraduate, and graduate teaching laboratories that they are discussed separately here.

1.D.1 High School Teaching Laboratories

Laboratory safety involves recognizing and evaluating hazards, assessing risks, selecting appropriate personal protective equipment, and performing the experimental work in a safe manner. Training must start early in a chemist’s career. Even a student’s first chemical experiments should cover the proper approach to understanding and dealing with the hazardous properties of chemicals (e.g., flammability, reactivity, corrosiveness, and toxicity) as an introduction to laboratory safety and should also teach sound environmental practice when managing chemical waste. Advanced high school chemistry courses should assume the same responsibilities for developing professional attitudes toward safety and waste management as are expected of college and university courses.

1.D.2 Undergraduate Teaching Laboratories

Undergraduate chemistry courses are faced with the problem of introducing inexperienced people to the culture of laboratory safety. Although some students enroll in their first undergraduate course with good preparation from their high school science courses, many others bring little or no experience in the laboratory. They must learn to evaluate the wide range of hazards in laboratories and learn risk management techniques that are designed to eliminate various potential dangers in the laboratory.

Undergraduate laboratory instruction is often assigned to graduate—and in some cases undergraduate—teaching assistants, who have widely different backgrounds and communication skills. Supervising and supporting teaching assistants is a special departmental responsibility that is needed to ensure the safe operation of the undergraduate laboratories in the department. The assistants are teaching chemistry while

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