Collaborative effort leads to laboratory integrated safety plan

Author: Susan Lister

laboratory safety

With a primary goal of enhancing the culture of safety throughout Notre Dame, a cross-functional team has developed a laboratory integrated safety plan (ISP) that provides a structure for managing safety and health. The ISP will be used by all laboratories on campus.

A locally organized committee will outline general safety practices, and a lab supervisor will work with the Office of Risk Management and Safety (RMS) to conduct an initial safety evaluation. Together, the team will develop or revise, as necessary, a safety protocol for the lab, which identifies existing hazards and ensures that all personnel are trained in the site’s protocol. For example, the evaluation will make certain that required safety equipment is available and maintained, and that appropriate training of personnel has been provided and documented.

“The committee recognized the need for flexibility with respect to how best to implement safety practices at the various labs throughout campus,” says Mark Suckow, assistant vice president for research and laboratory ISP committee chairman. “This is not a one-size-fits-all plan. By partnering with representatives from throughout campus, this plan takes a nonprescriptive approach and expects each unit to collaborate with Risk Management to institute a local safety program which applies to their specific requirements. It provides local filters to facilitate application that is meaningful in all locations.”

The laboratory ISP was a collaborative effort between members of the College of Science, the College of Engineering, College of Arts and Letters, the Office of the Vice President for Research, RMS and the Office of General Counsel.

The laboratory ISP requires that every lab be evaluated by RMS for significant safety risks by undergoing a comprehensive safety assessment. Once a location passes the safety assessment, it is considered “validated” for the period of one year. Annually, all labs will undergo safety reviews to maintain the validated status.

The laboratory ISP is part of the University’s overall campus safety focus. Departments and divisions throughout Notre Dame are working to enhance policies and procedures that maintain a safe learning and work environment.

“I am very pleased with the spirit of collaboration that brought the laboratory integrated safety plan to life,” says Mike Seamon, associate vice president for campus safety. “The work of this team will enhance our culture of safety at Notre Dame by ensuring that our labs and those who work in them are properly trained and equipped to operate in a safe environment.”

Full implementation of the laboratory ISP is expected by December. Several labs have undergone the audit process, including several in the Departments of Biological Sciences and Chemistry and Biochemistry.

“I see the integrated safety initiative encouraging cooperation,” says Gwen Stayback, laboratory manager, biological sciences. “People will respond more enthusiastically when they are directly involved as opposed to merely following generic instructions. Not only will the University itself but all individuals benefit from the integration.”

To learn more about the laboratory ISP, contact Mark Suckow at Suckow.1@nd.edu.