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taylor-eighmy-210Taylor Eighmy, vice chancellor for research and engagement, is heading a new national task force to enhance safety in college and university laboratories.

The Association of Public and Land-grant Universities formed the Task Force on Laboratory Safety recently to provide research universities with recommendations and guidance on strategies to enhance a culture of laboratory safety. The task force is composed of senior research officers and environmental and health safety experts. Eighmy and Mark McLellan, vice president for research for Utah State University, are co-chairs.

APLU formed the group in coordination with the Association of American Universities (AAU), the American Chemical Society (ACS), and the Council on Government Relations (COGR).

“This is an essential matter to address,” Eighmy said. “The culture around lab and studio safety is integral to the responsible conduct of research and scholarly excellence. We are fortunate to have such a dedicated task force and support from APLU, AAU, COGR, and ACS. It will be important for us to listen and learn and bring forward recommendations for implementation. We are excited to work together to help lead this effort.”

Recent efforts by the U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Board, the American Chemical Society, and the National Academies reflect both concern and focus on the absence of a lab safety culture in universities and colleges. The ability of institutions to keep their faculty, staff, students, and visitors safe during teaching and research activities is critical for their growth, success, and long-term sustainability. Significant events at other universities in recent years, including the death of a laboratory research assistant and a lab explosion that severely injured a graduate student, have raised awareness and highlight the need for a national solution.

The task force will address the needs that academic institutions have to understand as practical steps in implementing a culture of safety, including steps to document compliance and showcase safety practices, among other requirements.

The task force meets Wednesday and Thursday, May 6 and 7, in Washington, DC, with invited speakers from the National Academies; ACS; the U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Board; the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; Oak Ridge National Laboratory; the Association for the Accreditation of Human Research Protection Programs; the Campus Safety, Health, and Environmental Management Association; and the American Biological Safety Association. Robert Nobles, UT’s assistant vice chancellor for research, is providing staff support for the group’s work.