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Beryl Lieff Benderly

American Chemical Society Meeting Focuses Attention on Campus Lab Safety

At the recent annual convention of the American Chemical Society (ACS) in Denver, the group’s deliberative council devoted a portion of its meeting to hearing suggestions for what ACS can do to improve laboratory safety culture on the nation’s campuses. The session grew out of efforts and proposals by groups within the ACS that have been working on safety issues for years. In a typically astute and informative blog post on Chemical & Engineering News, Jyllian Kemsley reports that the half hour devoted to the issue produced a wide range of ideas, from tying “faculty and adminstrator raises and contract renewal to safety performance” to encouraging TV shows and movies to show correct protective apparel and gear.

Significantly, Kemsley writes, “no one stood up either to defend academic laboratory culture or to say that ACS shouldn’t get involved.” One council member in fact declared that “[t]here is no college laboratory I want to work in because they’re all so unsafe.”
A number of suggestions involved increasing training for students, including possibly creating certification programs. Kemsley, however, sees “too much emphasis on training students and not enough on the role of faculty and administration” in taking responsibility for fostering and maintaining a strong and continuous focus on safety as a crucial element of daily life in the lab. You can read the post, including the list of more than 20 suggestions, here.