Lab Safety Series: Cultivating a Culture of Safety in your Lab

by Trevor Neve

Today Ollie the Lab Collie is introducing us to creating a culture of safety in the lab. Ollie the Lab Collie and his partner, Dr. Bunsen know the importance of lab safety - its hard to keep all that fur in tact without proper PPE!

Creating a culture of safety is more than creating procedures and protocols - it is about consistency, community and culture by empowering all lab employees to take safety into their own hands. How do we do this?

Part I - Create a Plan

The most important step in cultivating a culture of safety is to assess hazards in the lab. Hazards come in many different forms, depending on the type of lab, equipment on site, and the specific uses of the lab. There are 9 general hazards you will want to be mindful of: chemical, physical, biological, mechanical, radiation, stress, noise, electrical and high & low pressure.  It is important to assess these hazards in relation to your practical applications in the lab.

Once the hazards have been assessed, you can work on auditing the lab equipment and processes to safety standards and regulations. When working through this audit, it is important to consider the EEPPP! Environmental conditions, Equipment, Policy, Procedures and Protocols are all factors to consider when doing a safety audit.

Once the audit is complete, you will have a road map of where your lab meets safety standards, where there is room for improvement, and areas in which you can exceed the standards and reach for safety excellence. From this, you can create a plan to tackle areas of improvement. This planning document will help you track success, and allow you to re-evaluate your plan as your needs change.

We recommend encouraging the input of the lab staff throughout this process, including having the planning document in an easy to access location. Safety audits should always be done with honesty, openness and in the spirit of collaboration and continuous improvement.


Part II - Cultivate your Culture

So you've done your first audit, crafted a plan for improvement, and committed to re-evaluating your safety plan at regular intervals. Now what?

Communication is a big component of creating a culture of safety. Communicating safety information, such as policy, procedures, and plans to all members of your team is the first priority. Ensure all team members are aware of the plan you've crafted, create signage around the workplace, and ensure all information is easily accessible. This includes making proper PPE accessible to everyone, as well as making sure all team members are knowledgeable about safety and emergency equipment, and can deploy the emergency equipment if necessary. Encourage colleagues to discuss safety concerns they may have, and encourage their collaborations on safety solutions.

Cultivating a culture of safety starts with the leadership. It is important to lead by example, and consistency is key. Ensuring everyone uses the full and appropriate PPE, with those in leadership roles modeling what is expected encourages everyone to be consistent in their own safety standards. Encourage your staff to look out for each other, and to call on their colleagues in a non-confrontational way if there is a safety hazard not being address.

Consistency is really the key. Being consistent with basics, such as enforcing PPE and not allowing food in the lab, conditions the team to be consistent with bigger safety issues.

Safety concerns everyone in the lab. Create a plan, be consistent, communicate with your team, and encourage collaboration - these are the keys to cultivating a culture of safety!


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