BOX 1.1
Tips for Encouraging a Culture of Safety Within an Academic Laboratory

   Make a topic of laboratory safety an item on every group meeting agenda.

   Periodically review the results of laboratory inspections with the entire group.

   Encourage students and laboratory employees to contact the EHS office if they have a question about safe methods of handling hazardous chemicals.

   Require that all accidents and incidents, even those that seem minor, are reported so that the cause can be identified.

   Review new experimental procedures with students and discuss all safety concerns. Where particularly hazardous chemicals or procedures are called for, consider whether a substitution with a less hazardous material or technique can be made.

   Make sure the safety rules within the laboratory (e.g., putting on eye protection at the door) are followed by everyone in the laboratory, from advisor to undergraduate researcher

   Recognize and reward students and staff for attention to safety in the laboratory.

law and regulations. Unfortunately, bad publicity from a serious accident in one careless operation tarnishes the credibility of all committed supervisors and employees. Fortunately, chemical companies that excel in safety are becoming more common, and safety is often recognized as equal in importance to productivity, quality, profitability, and efficiency.

The industrial or governmental laboratory environment provides strong corporate structure and discipline for maintaining a well-organized safety program where the culture of safety is thoroughly understood, respected, and enforced from the highest level of management down. New employees coming from academic research laboratories are often surprised to discover the detailed planning and extensive safety checks that are required before running experiments. In return for their efforts, they learn the sense of personal security that goes with high professional standards.


Several key factors continue to affect the evolution of laboratory safety programs in industry, government, and academe. These factors include advances in technology, environmental impact, and changes in legal and regulatory requirements.

1.F.1 Advances in Technology

In response to the increasingly high cost of chemical management, from procurement to waste disposal, a steady movement toward miniaturizing chemical operations exists in both teaching and research laboratories. This trend has had a significant effect on laboratory design and has also reduced the costs associated with procurement, handling, and disposal of chemicals. Another trend—motivated at least partially by safety concerns—is the simulation of laboratory experiments by computer. Such programs are a valuable conceptual adjunct to laboratory training but are by no means a substitute for hands-on experimental work. Only students who have been carefully educated through a series of hands-on experiments in the laboratory have the confidence and expertise needed to handle real laboratory procedures safely as they move on to advanced courses, research work, and eventually to their careers in industry, academe, health sciences, or government laboratories.

1.F.2 Environmental Impact

If a laboratory operation produces less waste, there is less waste to dispose of and less impact on the environment. A frequent, but not universal, corollary is that costs are also reduced. The terms “waste reduction,” “waste minimization,” and “source reduction” are often used interchangeably with “pollution prevention.” In most cases the distinction is not important. However, the term “source reduction” may be used in a narrower sense than the other terms, and the limited definition has been suggested as a regulatory approach that mandates pollution prevention. The narrow definition of source reduction includes only procedural and process changes that actually use less material and produce less waste. The definition does not include recycling or treatment to reduce the hazard of a waste. For example, changing to microscale techniques is considered source reduction, but recycling a solvent waste is not.

Many advantages are gained by taking an active pollution prevention approach to laboratory work, and these are well documented throughout this book. Some potential drawbacks do exist, and these are discussed as well and should be kept in mind when planning activities. For example, dramatically reducing the quantity of chemicals used in teaching laboratories may leave the student with an unrealistic appreciation of his or her behavior when using them on a larger scale. Also, certain types of pollution prevention activities, such as solvent recycling, may cost far more in dollars and

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