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Recent serious and sometimes fatal accidents in chemical research laboratories at United States universities have driven government agencies, professional societies, industries, and universities themselves to examine the culture of safety in research laboratories. These incidents have triggered a broader discussion of how serious incidents can be prevented in the future and how best to train researchers and emergency personnel to respond appropriately when incidents do occur. As the priority placed on safety increases, many institutions have expressed a desire to go beyond simple compliance with regulations to work toward fostering a strong, positive safety culture: affirming a constant commitment to safety throughout their institutions, while integrating safety as an essential element in the daily work of laboratory researchers.
Safe Science takes on this challenge. This report examines the culture of safety in research institutions and makes recommendations for university leadership, laboratory researchers, and environmental health and safety professionals to support safety as a core value of their institutions. The report discusses ways to fulfill that commitment through prioritizing funding for safety equipment and training, as well as making safety an ongoing operational priority.
A strong, positive safety culture arises not because of a set of rules but because of a constant commitment to safety throughout an organization. Such a culture supports the free exchange of safety information, emphasizes learning and improvement, and assigns greater importance to solving problems than to placing blame. High importance is assigned to safety at all times, not just when it is convenient or does not threaten personal or institutional productivity goals. Safe Science will be a guide to make the changes needed at all levels to protect students, researchers, and staff.