Texas Tech recommendations: what the U of A is doing
The US Chemical Safety Board investigated the explosion at Texas Tech and, in its subsequent report, provided a number recommendations applicable to any university research lab (the recommendations are featured prominently in the US Chemical Safety Board video). Here we discuss the recommendations and what the U of A is doing.
Recommendation 1: An academic institution modeling its laboratory safety management plan after OSHA's laboratory standard should ensure that all safety hazards, including physical hazards of chemicals, be addressed.
EH&S at the U of A supports the recommendation that all lab safety hazard assessments should include an assessment of the physical hazards associated with chemicals.
The Chemical Safety Plan, which can be found here on the EH&S website, describes the various elements that should be included in laboratory-specific chemical safety plans. This document refers to all types of hazards and specifically mentions physical hazards associated with chemicals.
Recommendation 2: Academic institutions should ensure that practices and procedures are in place to verify that research-specific hazards are evaluated and mitigated.
The Chemical Safety Plan developed by EH&S outlines an effective hazard assessment processes. In addition EH&S has developed a hazard assessment process that would lead an individual to identfiy and address research-specific hazards
Recommendation 3: Comprehensive guidance on managing the hazards unique to laboratory chemical research in the academic environment is lacking. Current standards on hazard evaluations, risk assessments and hazard mitigation are geared toward industrial settings and are not fully transferable to the academic research laboratory environment.
Although some of the processes developed and endorsed by EH&S were designed for industrial settings, these processes have been used successfully at the U of A. EH&S continues to work with University faculties to improve the efficiency of these processes while continuously scanning other organizations for best practices.
Recommendation 4: Research-specific written protocols and training are necessary to manage laboratory research risk.
The Chemical Safety Plan, mentioned above, describes the requirements for written protocols and training
Recommendation 5: An academic institution's organizational structure should ensure that the safety inspector /auditor or research laboratories directly report to an identified individual/office with organizational authority to implement safety improvements.
The Associate Vice-President of Risk Management Services is also designated as the Chief Environmental and Safety Officer (CESO). Through a defined process the CESO has the authority, subject only to the University Provost, to take control of any University infrastructure due to unsafe activities.
It is also noted that some of the issues identified at Texas Tech University are similar to issues at the University of Alberta. The EH&S department completes regular audits of all laboratories. In many cases, those responsible for the laboratory will take action to address the deficiencies identified in the audit. However there are cases where the issues are not addressed.
EH&S encourages all laboratories to conduct inspections to identify and correct deficiencies on a regular basis.
Recommendation 6: Near-misses and previous incidents provide opportunities for education and improvement only if they are documented, tracked and communicated to drive safety change.
Risk Management Services plans to implement an on-line incident reporting system in 2012. This system will make it easier to report and track incidents. In the meantime, all members of the University Community are encouraged to submit all incidents and near misses through the EH&S website.
Back to the page with the video "Experimenting with Danger"
Link to the full length video on Youtube