Developing laboratory safety certification

Responding to a request from several former ACS presidents, the ACS Division of Chemical Health & Safety is attempting to develop an online laboratory safety certification program aimed at chemistry graduate students. The program ideally would address longstanding complaints from industry that Ph.D. programs do not adequately educate students to work safely in industrial research and development laboratories. A well-planned and peer-reviewed online certification program could be part of the solution to this training gap.

The development cost for online training programs, according to an informal survey of commercial online training providers, is approximately $20,000 for each presentation hour of this type of safety course. This means that developing an 8- to 10-hour course with about a dozen training modules would cost $160,000 to $200,000.

The division is now facing the following questions and would welcome input from Safety Zone readers:

  • How might costs be lowered? What work could be done by volunteers rather than paid consultants?
  • Does ACS have the resources to develop the program without using a training provider?
  • Several organizations are willing to support program development: the ACS Corporate Associates, National Academy of Sciences, National Research Council, and Council for Chemical Research. Are there others that might be interested?
  • Is there sufficient demand to warrant developing the program? Can it meet industry’s needs?
  • What topics should be covered, and what is a realistic amount of time to commit for effective training?
  • Is taking an online course and passing tests sufficient for certification or should there be other components?

Related post: Teaching safety to chemical engineers

Author: Russ Phifer

Russ is a professional volunteer, active in ACS since 1982. He is the only History major (College of Wooster, 1974) to Chair an ACS Committee (Chemical Safety), Technical Division (CHAS), and Task Force (Laboratory Chemical & Waste Management). In his spare time he is Executive Director of the National Registry of Certified Chemists (NRCC), EH&S Manager for a printing plant (Chiyoda America, Morgantown, PA), and run his own environmental health & safety consulting and training firm (WC Environmental, LLC). Also active in local politics, he nonetheless enjoys spending time with his wife Molly and their five children.

Share This Post On


  1. Online certification is a start – certainly more standardized than the current state of safety training across Ph.D programs. Seems like it would benefit from a “lab practical” type component though. Not sure who would be able administer that in a standardized form – the institution’s EHS dept?

    As for funding such a training program, would it not be appropriate to put some of the millions of dollars that UCLA might be fined toward this cause? Or if there is a plea bargain, UCLA could offer to spearhead and fund this program for a fraction of the cost they are possibly facing.

  2. Brian – thanks for your thoughtful comments. What is envisioned for the online program is a course that would be accepted by industry and academia to show competency in laboratory safety among graduate students; I don’t think any one institution could afford to do this by themselves at the projected cost. While I’d love to see UCLA involved in this effort, it’s far more likely that any set-aside they might be allowed for EH&S projects would be for the university itself (i.e. – the new Laboratory Safety Center) or training for other schools in California.