Culture of compliance versus culture of safety
Feb04

Culture of compliance versus culture of safety

Quote fom a New York Times story about the collapse of a construction waste dump in China that killed at least 69 people. How many U.S. workplaces does it also describe? “It’s quite often that the goal is to get approval, rather than be truly in compliance with the spirit, whether it’s the environmental impact assessment or safety,” said Dali L. Yang, a professor at the University of Chicago who has studied China’s efforts to strengthen safety regulation. “They think, ‘I can get away with this, so why bother?’...

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Comparing safety culture in industry to academia
Jan21

Comparing safety culture in industry to academia

Chemjobber had a guest post last week by Alex Goldberg, who started working as a pharmaceutical process chemist six months ago. He says, in part: And we have regular meetings about safety: we discuss near-misses and incidents and accidents (and we learn about the differences between them in safety training) that occurred in the previous month. And absolutely everyone wears his or her labcoat and safety glasses. Reflecting back on my academic training, I think about what universities can do to make safety an ongoing conversation, not just an onboarding exercise or an annual seminar. If we take long-hours and limited resources as a given in academic Chemistry departments — a topic which merits another discussion entirely — what can be done to build a culture of safety around those constraints? What does your lab and department do to accomplish this goal? Examples,...

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Chinese university lab safety–not that different from the U.S.?
Jan20

Chinese university lab safety–not that different from the U.S.?

From Chemistry World, a look at the safety culture of Chinese university labs following the death of postdoctoral researcher Xiangjian Meng from a hydrogen explosion: The Tsinghua accident is not an isolated incident. On 5 April 2015, a gas explosion killed one graduate student and injured four others in a chemistry lab at the China University of Mining and Technology located in the eastern Chinese city of Xuzhou. On 22 September 2015, a Peking University chemistry building caught fire after a hydrogen tank leaked. The fire did not result in any injuries. A fire that broke out at a lab at the Beijing University of Chemical Technology last Monday was blamed on ageing equipment. I found it interesting that people interviewed for the Chemistry World story said that lab safety culture is better elsewhere–but several of the examples cited as problems in China can certainly be said about many U.S. labs as well: The fact that Meng was working alone points to a poor safety culture at the lab. There should be at least two people working in a lab in case of an accident, Luo tells Chemistry World. [Note: Chemistry World does not cite a source for Meng working alone, and I have not heard that from the university] … Yin says that awareness of lab safety and training is very weak among Chinese researchers. She notes that researchers are sometimes reluctant to wear gloves and safety glasses to allow them to work without hindrance. … Wang Xiaojun, a professor of environmental chemistry at Guangzhou-based South China University of Technology, says that the lack of funding for lab infrastructure has hampered some lab heads’ efforts to make their workplaces safer. Researchers are left sometimes having to use their own funding to install safety equipment. This can leave some lab heads having to choose between safety and their own research. … But Luo says, besides research grants, most universities in China were allotted flexible budgets for infrastructure. ‘The problem is lab safety has never been prioritised.’ … One day before the Tsinghua accident, the education ministry urged universities and schools to carry out safety inspections. After the accident, the ministry launched a nationwide lab safety examination. But Luo says that campaign-style safety examinations do no good for lab safety. ‘The most likely action during nationwide [safety] inspections is to ensure the reliability of instruments, without considering the dynamic and flexible demands of research,’ Luo says. He suggests integrating safety training with experimental demands and lab safety management....

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AAAS rescinds election of Patrick Harran as a fellow
Dec23

AAAS rescinds election of Patrick Harran as a fellow

Yesterday, the American Association for the Advancement of Science announced that it would rescind its election of University of California, Los Angeles, chemistry professor Patrick Harran as a AAAS fellow. The AAAS statement says: The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) today announced that its Section on Chemistry has voted not to move forward with the nomination of Patrick Harran as a Fellow, following re-review of his nomination. On December 18, the AAAS Council approved the Chemistry Section steering group’s request to conduct a complete re-evaluation of Dr. Harran’s nomination after it became apparent that an initial review of nomination materials had not included all relevant information. Members of the nomination reviewing committee recently became aware of a 2008 case involving the death of a technician in the UCLA laboratory of Dr. Harran. The AAAS Council Subcommittee on Fellows, which is empowered to review the nomination and election process, is also considering changes to the Fellow review process for subsequent nominations. The statement is confusing, because in AAAS’s Nov. 16 fellows election announcement, it said that the fellows–including Harran–had already been elected. Now it’s saying that it won’t move forward with the nomination. If Harran was already elected, wouldn’t AAAS have to revoke that, not just put a halt to the nomination? I asked AAAS director of news and information Gavin Stern to clarify, but I haven’t heard back yet. Update with a clarification from Stern: Dr. Harran’s case is unprecedented under AAAS bylaws and the history of AAAS elected Fellowship, which dates back to 1874. Dr. Harran was nominated independently by three existing AAAS Fellows and then ratified by elected members of the AAAS Council. Under our bylaws, this process is member-driven without interference or influence by AAAS staff. On December 18, the Chemistry Section steering group received approval from the Council for a complete re-evaluation of Dr. Harran’s nomination. They decided not to move forward — therefore Dr. Harran will not be installed as a...

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AAAS may reconsider election of Patrick Harran as a fellow
Dec15

AAAS may reconsider election of Patrick Harran as a fellow

In a press release yesterday, the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) announced that the association’s chemistry section has asked the association’s governing council to reconsider election of Patrick Harran as a AAAS Fellow. Harran was in charge of a University of California, Los Angeles, lab where a fire occurred in 2008, fatally injuring staff researcher Sheharbano (Sheri) Sangji. Harran was subsequently charged with felony violations of state labor code and is currently fulfilling the terms of a settlement agreement with the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office. The AAAS press release says in part: The Chemistry Section’s request to the Council was made after it became apparent that an initial review of Dr. Harran’s nomination materials had not included all relevant information. … Under AAAS bylaws, Fellows are nominated either independently by three existing AAAS Fellows, as in Dr. Harran’s case, or by the elected leadership of topical membership Sections. Following review by the relevant topical sections, successful fellows are then ratified by elected members of the AAAS Council, without interference or influence by AAAS staff. Newly elected Fellows are then inducted at a ceremony during the AAAS Annual Meeting in February. In November, AAAS had announced the election of 347 new Fellows, to be honored at a 13 February awards ceremony. Last week, members of the nomination reviewing committee became aware of a 2009 case involving the death of a technician in the UCLA laboratory of Dr. Harran. An additional announcement will be made as soon as the relevant AAAS governance bodies issue a final decision in this case. The chemists on the AAAS governing council are AAAS president and Council chair Geraldine Richmond, Judith Burstyn, Marisa Kozlowski, and American Chemical Society president-elect Donna Nelson. The chair of the AAAS chemistry section steering group is Bruce Bursten, who served as American Chemical Society president in 2008. Other members of the section steering group can be found here. Commentary: Chemjobber – Patrick Harran’s nomination as an AAAS fellow to be reconsidered by the chemistry section and Los Angeles Times on the Harran/AAAS contretemps Other coverage: The Scientist – AAAS Fellowship Decision Criticized Motherboard – Should a UCLA Professor Be Forgiven for the Horrific Death of His Lab Assistant? Chemistry World – AAAS poised to reconsider Harran’s election to fellow Science Careers – AAAS Fellowship selection raises questions Los Angeles Times – Fatal UCLA lab fire cited as science group is urged to reconsider chemist’s fellowship Inside Higher Ed – Questions About Honor for UCLA Chemistry...

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Strengthening a culture of laboratory safety
Dec14

Strengthening a culture of laboratory safety

Coming up tomorrow–Tuesday, Dec. 15–at 10 am Pacific/1 pm Eastern, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention is holding a “Grand Rounds” webcast on “Strengthening a Culture of Laboratory Safety”: In this session of Public Health Grand Rounds, our panel will discuss how standards of laboratory safety have improved over the years, what we’ve learned from past incidents, and how establishing safety protocols and training systems can lead to an overall culture of workplace safety, resulting in continued public trust in our science and recommendations. Topics and speakers will be: “Evolution of Laboratory Safety Standards,” Stephan Monroe, associate director for laboratory science and safety, CDC “Quality, Safety and Public Health Impact of Lab Science: A Case Study,” Conrad P. Quinn, chief of the Meningitis & Vaccine Preventable Diseases Branch, National Center for Immunization & Respiratory Disease, CDC “Establishing a Culture of Safety in an Academic Research Institution: Teaching Safety to Scientists,” Joseph Kanabrocki, associate vice president for research safety and professor of microbiology, University of Chicago CDC itself has been in the news frequently in the last two years for safety lapses regarding pathogen handling, and last week it replaced its director of its Division of Select Agents and...

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