Universities Are Pushed to Improve Lab Safety

Report: “Safe Science: Promoting a Culture of Safety in Academic Chemical Research”

Author: Committee on Establishing and Promoting a Culture of Safety in Academic Laboratory Research

Organization: National Research Council

Summary: The National Research Council formed a panel of university lab-safety experts after a series of campus accidents, including several deaths, emphasized that academic labs have a far worse safety record than their corporate counterparts do.

The result is a 100-page report with a series of recommendations that include calls for university leaders to improve the on-campus cultural climate for safety, to introduce nonpunitive reporting systems, and to take steps within their financial constraints in hazard analyses, the adoption of safety plans and training, and other areas.

Bottom Line: Just a month after a court settlement in the closely watched legal pursuit of a University of California at Los Angeles chemistry professor over the death of a student researcher in a lab accident, the National Academies report provides a path of action for those who are willing, though the question remains whether either a commission report or an ambiguous legal outcome in the UCLA case will prompt the wide-scale changes in attitudes that appear to be needed in thousands of university labs.

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