a Safety Education!
BY ROBERT H. HILL
14 – 17
Southeastern Regional Meeting of
the ACS (SERMACS), Raleigh, NC
Aseries of devastating incidents in academic laboratories have raised questions about the adequacy of safety cultures in academic institu- tions— especially in their research laboratories. The members of the
ACS Committee on Chemical Safety (CCS) recognized the need to aid their
academic colleagues by developing a report, entitled Creating Safety Cultures
in Academic Institutions ( www.acs.org/safety). While this report is aimed at
administrators, faculty, and teaching and laboratory staff, there are several
issues that are of concern to YOU as an undergraduate.
I started working as a laboratory assistant when I was a freshman. I
remember making a concentrated solution of sodium hydroxide and not
wearing an apron or lab coat in the process. When my mom washed my
clothes, she asked me what I had done to my clothes— because they came
out shredded! This was the first lesson in my long safety education process.
I had always known I wanted to be a chemist, but I must admit that it took
me some time to educate myself in safety— and it occurred through a process called on-the-job training. My impression is that many other chemists
have had the same experience. However, although my safety education was
lacking, I was fortunate enough to have talented chemists impart their safety
knowledge to me. Perhaps I can pay it forward by helping bring more safety
education to the academic sphere.
Today the increased interest in safety in the academic arena is way beyond
anything that I experienced. Still, the proof is in the pudding, as they say.
Can the academic community retool itself to build strong safety knowledge
in its undergraduate students so that they will be ready for the independent
research required of graduate students?
The CCS report calls for changes in the way academic institutions
approach safety. It recommends teaching safety lessons in each laboratory
session throughout the entire undergraduate learning process, and testing
and evaluating the safety skills of undergraduates. I am optimistic that the
academic community is up to task.
You can help make these changes happen. Your role as an undergraduate is to find a way to build your skills involving safety to the advanced level
you will need by the time you graduate. You may have to be proactive in this
effort and study safety on your own or get a faculty member to help you. The
CCS report has a section about teaching safety that includes a table of topics
(and resources) that you should have covered by the time you are ready to
move to graduate school or to a laboratory in the public or private sector.
The thing to keep in mind is, contrary to the popular saying, what you
don’t know about safety can hurt you.
14 Applications for the SCI Scholar
Summer Industrial Internship due
10 Student Leadership Awards
recipients announced for the 2013
ACS Leadership Institute
22 Applications for ACS National
Meeting Travel Grants due
25 – 27
2013 ACS Leadership Institute,
15 Women Chemists Committee Eli Lilly
Travel Grant applications due
1 Applications for ACS Scholars
Program due ( www.acs.org/scholars)
22 Activity Fact Sheets due for the
Chem Demo Exchange event at
the 245th ACS National Meeting
in New Orleans, LA
245th ACS National Meeting,
New Orleans, LA
Robert H. Hill, Ph.D., is a program manager at Battelle in Atlanta,
GA, and Chair of the ACS Committee on Chemical Safety.
15 – 18
44th ACS Central Regional Meeting,
Mount Pleasant, MI
16 – 19
44th ACS Middle Atlantic Regional
Meeting (MARM), Philadelphia, PA
22 ACS Student Chapter Reports due
inChemistry • www.acs.org/undergrad