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.

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.

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