Several fairly recent accidents at universities in the United States have meant officials are looking more intensely at academic chemistry labs and how those involved treat safety. However, making labs safer is a tough task, requiring commitment from everyone in three key areas, according to a recent Royal Chemistry Society article: responsibility levels, changing the culture, and learning to share.

Responsibility levels

Though each staff member should be responsible for their own safety, group heads, lab managers, department heads, and other members of top management need to provide the right amount of oversight and ensure their employees are following proper safety procedures.

Changing the culture

Often peer pressure can be a bad thing, but in the case of lab safety, it can be very beneficial. Once you get staff to buy in to lab safety, they will help force those who don't conform to proper safety practices to buy in as well through peer pressure. There should also be training for all staff to help them assess and recognize hazards so they can realize when something they are doing is unsafe.

Learning to Share

A reporting process for letting other staff and managers know about any safety incidents and close calls – and how they were dealt with – is also critical to boost safety in labs. By sharing safety experiences, lab managers and staff can better see where improvements are needed and what practices work best.