The Association of Public and Land-grant Universities today announced it has formed the Task Force on Laboratory Safety, which will provide research universities with recommendations and guidance on the most appropriate strategies to enhance a culture of laboratory safety. NIU Vice President for Research and Innovation Partnerships Lesley Rigg is among the 13 task force members.
The task force, which APLU created in coordination with the Association of American Universities (AAU), American Chemical Society (ACS), and Council on Government Relations (COGR), is comprised of senior research officers and environmental and health safety experts.
Rigg said in an email that “the work of the APLU task force is extremely important,” a feeling echoed by the task force chair and co-chair.
“This is an essential matter to address,” Dr. Taylor Eighmy of the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, chair of the task force, and Dr. Mark McLellan of Utah State University, co-chair of the task force, said in a joint statement. “The culture around lab and studio safety is integral to the responsible conduct of research and scholarly excellence. We are fortunate to have such a dedicated task force and support from APLU, AAU, COGR, and ACS. It will be important for us to listen and learn and bring forward recommendations for implementation. We are excited to work together to help lead this effort.”
Recent and ongoing efforts by the U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Board, the American Chemical Society, and the National Academies reflect both concern and focus on the absence of a lab safety culture in universities and colleges. The necessity for institutions to keep their faculty, staff, students, and visitors safe during teaching and research activities is critical for their growth, success, and long-term sustainability. Significant events in recent years, including the death of a laboratory research assistant and a lab explosion that severely injured a graduate student has raised awareness and highlights the need for a national solution.
The task force will address the needs that academic institutions have to: 1) understand practical steps in implementing a ‘culture of safety’ in their laboratories; 2) document their commitment to laboratory safety excellence in order to benchmark against leading practice; 3) document their compliance with national, state, and institutional laboratory policies; 4) showcase their dedication to preventing and managing injury of individuals performing laboratory activities; and 5) limit the liability of college and university leadership by meeting established standards of excellence, including implementing mechanisms to document an institution’s commitment to developing and preserving a culture of safety and compliance.
The task force is meeting May 6-7 in Washington, DC with invited speakers from the National Academies, the American Chemical Society, the U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Board, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Oak Ridge National Lab, Association for the Accreditation of Human Research Protection Programs, Campus Safety, Health, and Environmental Management Association, and American Biological Safety Association.
The members of the Task Force on Laboratory Safety are:
- Taylor Eighmy (Chair), Vice Chancellor for Research & Engagement, University of Tennessee, Knoxville
- Mark McLellan (Co-chair), Vice President for Research and Dean of the School of Graduate Studies, Utah State University
- Kimberly Espy, Senior Vice President for Research, University of Arizona
- Mridul Gautam, Vice President for Research and Innovation, University of Nevada, Reno
- Jan Novakofski, Associate Vice Chancellor for Research for Compliance, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
- Patty Olinger, Assistant Vice President for Research Administration and Director of Environmental Health and Safety, Emory University
- Joanne Polzien, Director of Compliance, Integrity and Safety, Michigan Technological University
- Lesley Rigg, Vice President for Research, Professor of Geography, Northern Illinois University
- Tim Slone, Director of Department of Environmental Health Safety, University of North Carolina at Greensboro
- Ara Tahmassian, Chief Research Compliance Officer, Harvard University
- Erik Talley, Director of Environmental Health and Safety, Cornell University
- Nancy Wayne, Associate Vice Chancellor for Research and Professor of Physiology, University of California Los Angeles
- Alice Young, Associate Vice President for Research, Texas Tech University
Staff for Task Force
- Steve Bilbao, Director, Environmental Health & Safety, Utah State University
- Robert Nobles, Assistant Vice Chancellor for Research for Responsible Conduct of Research and Institutional Research Integrity, University of Tennessee, Knoxville
- Kacy Redd, Director, Science and Mathematics Education Policy, APLU