Environmental Health & Safety
“The Safety Ethic”
Value safety, work safely, prevent at-risk behavior, promote safety, and accept responsibility for safety - Robert Hill
The atmosphere, an invisible force or “way of working” within a company (or institution) that shapes behavior. A culture consists of shared beliefs, practices, and attitudes.
The safety culture of an institution is a reflection of the actions, attitudes, and behaviors of its members concerning safety. These members include the managers, supervisors, and employees in the industrial and governmental communities; and the faculty, staff, and students in the academic community. Serious chemical or laboratory incidents within an organization are often thought to be the result of a weak or deficient safety culture-a principal root cause of the incident.
Safety is a positive value-it prevents injuries, saves lives, and improves productivity and outcomes. When safety is actively practiced and is regarded as a critical core value by organizational leaders, it bestows a sense of confidence and caring in all of the people who work there.
A strong safety culture is required to protect employees but is especially important in protecting students and in developing students’ skills and awareness of safety. It also protects academic institutional reputations. This culture emanates from ethical, moral, and practical considerations, rather than regulatory requirements. Academic administrators, faculties, and staff members have ethical responsibilities to care for their students’ safety and to instill awareness about safety. They need to teach students the safety skills required to work in laboratories on campus and in the workplace. In a strong safety culture, students will acquire the skills to recognize hazards, to assess the risk of exposures to those hazards, to minimize the risk of exposures to hazards, and to be prepared to respond to laboratory emergencies.
The laboratory is a unique environment. Hazard identification, hazard assessment, and hazard management-collectively known as hazards analysis-in laboratory operations (including research) are critical skills that need to be part of all undergraduate, graduate and postdoctoral education. Learning how to prepare for emergencies is also a critical skill. It is important to remember that some hazards may not have been identified, assessed, or managed correctly when the laboratory operation was designed. Safety is an integral part of all laboratory operations but it requires that the laboratory worker consider this every time they start work. In this way, the process of hazards analysis becomes an integral part of the laboratory process, just like the scientific method. (Excerpt From: Creating Safety Cultures in Academic Institutions; A Report of the Safety Culture Task Force of the ACS Committee on Chemical Safety).