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Safety professionals: On the outer fringe or the leading edge?

A guest post by Russ Phifer, a consultant with WC Environmental, executive director of the National Registry of Certified Chemists, and past chair of the ACS Division of Chemical Health & Safety. Cross-posted at CENtral Science ACS Meeting Updates.

At the ACS meeting in Dallas this week, it was clear that the safety community continues to try to solidify its place in the chemical enterprise. Although technical programming in our field was a little light for this meeting, there were some excellent presentations.

The seemingly routine “Ask Doctor Safety” session held at every meeting suddenly attracted a new audience of young women chemists interested in reproductive health. Neal Langerman of Advanced Chemical Safety and Harry Elston of Midwest Chemical Safety surely gave them a newfound respect for the chemicals they might handle.

In the Safety eLearning symposium, Janette de la Rosa Ducut of the University of California, Riverside, and Thor Benzing of the UC Division of Agriculture & Natural Resources opened eyes with an arresting presentation. There were some new faces in the crowd at that session, too. Nevertheless, getting thirty or so people in attendance when other programs are getting hundreds can be a little discouraging.

Where exactly do safety professionals and their work fit in the chemistry community? Are we on the fringe or at the leading edge? We don’t make a product. We are permitted to “train,” but generally not to “teach.” We can do research, but it’s far more likely to be data inquiry than in the laboratory. The environmental health and safety field encompasses quite a few CHAS, DCT, CINF, ENVR, SCHB, and CHAL professionals, so it does reach across nearly every other discipline within the chemical enterprise. Our job, every day, is to help keep people safe. But it seems that we still don’t get the respect that we’ve earned.

We’re making progress. Every ACS president since at least Ned Heindel has made chemical health and safety at least a small part of their presidential years. Each has contributed a little more to health and safety awareness. Now, Diane Schmidt, the immediate past-chair of the Division of Chemical Health & Safety, is in the first of her three presidential succession years. We know that she has been a tireless worker for chemical safety. Hopefully her term as president will help to further raise the profile of the essential role of safety in the chemical enterprise.

#Chemsafety at #ACSDallas

Dallas_transition_825x259The 247th ACS National Meeting starts on Sunday in Dallas, Tex. Here are the chemical and laboratory safety events that will be happening there. If you’d like a nicely-formatted version to print, check out CHAS-at-a-Glance.


  • Division of Chemical Health & Safety executive committee meeting, open to all ACS members; 8:30 am-noon; Convention Center room D169
  • Ask Dr. Safety: Protecting reproductive health in the laboratory environment; 1:30-3:10 pm; Convention Center room A120/A120


  • Committee on Chemical Safety meeting; 8:30-11:30 am; Sheraton, 400 N Olive St, room Lone Star C2
  • Benefits of chemistry in our lives; 8:00-10:20 am; Sheraton Dallas, Austin Ballroom 2 (cosponsored PRES event)
  • eLearning: What we’ve learned and where we’re going; 1:30-3:50 pm; Convention Center room A120/A120
  • Chemical safety of energy and food; 4:00-5:10 pm; Convention Center room A120/A120
  • Social hour; 5:30-7:30 pm; Iron Cactus, 1520 Main St (hosted by CHAS, PROF, and SCHB)

Chemical and laboratory safety at #ACSIndy

CHAS-ACSIndyThe 246th ACS National Meeting starts on Sunday, so it’s time to highlight the chemical and laboratory safety programming. If you’re heading to the meeting, be sure to take along the Division of Chemical Health & Safety‘s handy CHAS-at-a-Glance.


  • Division of Chemical Health & Safety Executive Committee breakfast meeting, open to ACS members; 8:30 am-noon, Convention Center room 142
  • Division of Chemical Health & Safety Awards; 1:30-2:40 pm, Convention Center room 115
  • New Horizons in Chemical Health and Safety; 2:50-6:40 pm, Convention Center room 115


  • Committee on Chemical Safety combined open meeting and executive session; 8:30-11:30 am, JW Marriott Grand Ballroom 3; agenda is here
  • Managing Reactive Chemistry; 1:00-5:40 pm, Convention Center Wabash Ballroom 2
  • Air Monitoring; 1:30-5:25 pm, Crowne Plaza at Historic Union Station room Penn Station B
  • Social Hour; 5:30-7:30 pm, Skyline Club, 36th Floor, One American Square


  • Identifying and Evaluating Hazards in Research Laboratories; 9:00 am-noon, 1:30-4:45 pm, Convention Center room 141. This symposium includes introduction of a new ACS publication on hazard analysis.


  • Air Monitoring poster session (6:00-8:00 pm, Convention Center Halls F&G)

You can chat with Division of Chemical Health & Safety or Committee on Chemical Safety representatives and see what resources they have at booth 523 in the Exhibition Hall. You can also follow the division at its @acsdchas and @labsustain twitter feeds.

Protecting a global lab workforce

ACS has posted presentations from the spring 2013 national meeting in New Orleans, and there’s one from the Division of Chemical Health & Safety: “What’s required vs. what’s right: Protecting a global lab workforce,” by Ken Fivizzani, chair-elect of the division. Here’s his abstract:

Organizations tend to respond to external regulations by ensuring that minimum requirements are met; additional internal rules may be added if they can be justified to management. In the case of global academic or industrial organizations, reliance on local regulations challenges safety professionals’ natural instincts to provide comparable safety working conditions to all employees within the organization. Regional managers are often hesitant to commit resources implementing policies that are not required by local governments. Within organizations, site-specific safety policies and procedures should be reviewed for broader application to other locations. Ethical and cultural issues can hinder efforts to establish equitable safety policies to all employees.

Access to the presentations is free if you’re an ACS member who registered for the meeting or are in a couple of other member categories. Here’s the pricing information.

Chemical and laboratory safety at #ACSNOLA

CEF coverMy colleagues and I are gearing up for the 245th ACS National Meeting in New Orleans, which means that it’s time for me to post the Division of Chemical Health & Safety programming for the meeting. As usual, the helpful DCHAS folks have also put together their CHAS-At-A-Glance reference for the meeting. Sessions are in the Convention Center room 237 unless otherwise noted.


  • CHAS Executive Committee Breakfast, open to any CHAS or ACS member (8:30 am)
  • Chemical Safety Aspects of Animal Use Protocol Risk Assessments (1:30-3:10 pm)
  • Ask Dr. Safety About Dealing with Especially Hazardous Materials (3:15-5:25 pm)


  • Health, Safety, Security, and Environment: A Global Prospective (1:30-3:55 pm)
  • Sci-Mix posters (8-10 pm, Convention Center Hall D)


For other meeting programming that caught the attention of C&EN staff, check out C&EN Picks! And for real-time updates of what we’re up to at the meeting, follow us on Twitter and Tumblr.

#Chemsafety slides posted for #ACSPhilly

Just a quick note to say that the ACS Division of Chemical Health & Safety has posted the slides from the division’s programming at the ACS National Meeting in Philadelphia last month. What were the talks about, you ask? Check here.

Reflecting on #chemsafety at #ACSPhilly

There’s been a whirlwind of safety activity at the ACS meeting this week! The safety culture symposium was very well attended, and the speakers continually came up with new and effective approaches for the attendees to consider.

For my part, I realized that I need to change one aspect of my chemical hygiene officer training. I’ve regularly used the combination of engineering controls, administrative controls, and personal protective equipment (PPE) as the triangle of safe practice in the laboratory. It’s clear that I need to add a fourth corner: safety culture. The proper use of engineering controls (hoods, eliminating processes, isolating equipment, etc.), administrative controls (rules, policies, procedures), and certainly PPE is not enough without safe behavior in the use of those controls. Also, the paradigm we use in keeping laboratories safe has an economic component. Laboratories should be putting more emphasis on the operational costs of the laboratory, particularly energy. Looking at each aspect of laboratory operation from a “green” perspective has real value, since reducing costs can often result in the ability to increase budgets elsewhere.

We’ve also heard some news relating to the University of California system’s agreement with the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office to follow the terms of a specified lab safety program at all of its campuses. The UC campuses are beginning to work together to develop consistent training programs to address the requirements, and UC has asked ACS to validate the program once it has been finalized. This peer review, which would most likely be performed by come combination of Division of Chemical Health & Safety and Committee on Chemical Safety members, could help the UC system substantiate compliance. Pending legal review and agreement between ACS and the UC Board of Regents, it appears this will move forward, since both CHAS and CCS agreed unanimously to support the project.

The weather in Philadelphia has been great, the sessions well attended, and the lab safety community has had plenty to talk about. All in all, it’s been an excellent meeting! Thanks to all who participated, and if you couldn’t make it, we hope to see you in New Orleans in 2013.

#Chemsafety at #ACSPhilly, Tuesday edition

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