they are trying to learn it and teaching safety when they may not be prepared to do so. However, they are in a position to act as role models of safe laboratory practice for the students in the laboratory, and adequate support and training are required for them to fill that role appropriately.
To this end, a manual designed and written specifically for teaching assistants in undergraduate laboratories is an extremely effective training tool. The manual can include sections on principles of laboratory safety; laboratory facilities; teaching assistant duties during the laboratory session; chemical management; applicable safety rules; teaching assistant and student apparel, teaching assistant and student personal protective equipment; departmental policy on pregnant students in laboratories; and emergency preparedness in the event of a fire, chemical spill, or injury in the laboratory.
There should be resolute commitment by the entire faculty to the departmental safety program to minimize exposure to hazardous materials and unsafe work practices in the laboratory. Teaching safety and safe work practices in the laboratory should be a top priority for faculty as they prepare students for careers in industrial, governmental, academic, and health sciences laboratories. By promoting safety during the undergraduate and graduate years, the faculty will have a significant impact not just on their students but also on everyone who will share their future work environments.
1.D.3 Academic Research Laboratories
Advanced training in safety should be mandatory for students engaged in research, and hands-on training is recommended whenever possible. Unlike laboratory course work, where training comes primarily from repeating well-established procedures, research often involves making new materials by new methods, which may pose unknown hazards. As a result, workers in academic research laboratories do not always operate from a deep experience base.
Thus, faculty is expected to provide a safe environment for research via careful oversight of the student’s work. Responsibility for the promotion of safe laboratory practices extends beyond the EHS department, and all senior researchers—faculty, postdoctoral, and experienced students—should endeavor to teach the principles and set a good example for their associates. The ability to maintain a safe laboratory environment is necessary for a chemist entering the workforce, and students who are not adequately trained in safety are placed at a professional disadvantage when compared with their peers. To underscore the importance of maintaining a safe and healthy laboratory environment, many chemistry departments provide laboratory safety training and seminars for incoming graduate students. However, in many cases these sessions are designed to prepare graduate students for their work as teaching assistants rather than for their work as research scientists.
Formal safety education for advanced students and laboratory personnel should be made as relevant to their work activities as possible. Training conducted simply to satisfy regulatory requirements may seem like compliance, and researchers may sense that the training does not have the leader’s full support. EHS offices and researchers can work together to address such concerns and to design training sessions that fulfill regulatory requirements, provide training perceived as directly relevant to the researchers’ work, and provide hands-on experience with safety practices whenever possible.
Safety training is an ongoing process, integral to the daily activities of laboratory personnel. As a new laboratory technique is formally taught or used, relevant safe practices should be included; however, informal training through collegial interactions is a good way to exchange safety information, provide guidance, and reinforce good work habits.
Although principal investigators and project managers are legally accountable for the maintenance of safety in laboratories under their direction, this activity, like much of the research effort, is distributable. Well-organized academic research groups develop hierarchical structures of experienced postdoctoral research associates, graduate students at different levels, undergraduates, and technicians, which can be highly effective in transmitting the importance of safe, prudent laboratory operations. Box 1.1 provides some examples of how to encourage a culture of safety within an academic laboratory.
When each principal investigator offers leadership that demonstrates a deep concern for safety, fewer people get hurt. If any principal investigator projects an attitude that appears to be cavalier or hostile to the university safety program, that research group and others can mirror the poor example and exhibit behavior that sets the stage for potential accidents, loss of institutional property, and costly litigation.
The degree of commitment to EHS programs varies widely among companies and governmental laboratories, as well. Many chemical companies recognize both their moral responsibility and their own self-interest in developing the best possible safety programs, extending them not just to employees but also to contractors. Others do little more than is absolutely required by