Keeping staff safe in and around the labs is a key responsibility of lab management. There are many different actions lab managers take on a consistent basis to ensure the safety of their labs, and to build an effective safety culture for the lab. One important contribution that lab managers can make to lab safety is to participate in the regular safety inspections. It is important for the lab manager to see and experience exactly what is happening in the labs and get a first-hand appreciation of the efforts to promote safe work. Being seen doing safety inspections is also important. The effort of conducting safety inspections reinforces the message that safety is a high priority for everyone in the lab. It also gives the lab manager an opportunity to talk with people in the lab about safety, to ask questions about specific situations, to follow up on previous inspection action items, and to answer questions related to lab safety. Here are three things lab managers can do to improve lab safety through inspections.
#1 – Actively participate
Join the safety inspection schedule. Do safety inspections along with the usual inspectors. Put time and effort into the inspection. Provide sufficient time to do the inspection properly, the way you want everyone else to conduct them. Pay attention to the details in the lab. Work hard to find potential problems, both to ensure ongoing safety, and to spark useful conversations during the inspections.
#2 – Ask good questions
Use your scientific experience and training to ask good questions of lab staff during inspections. Expect lab staff to be present during the inspections. Ask them about any safety concerns or actions that they think need to be taken to keep the lab safe. Get them talking about ways to further improve safety of the lab. Listen carefully to their responses.
#3 – Make decisions
Safety manuals can’t address every detail of the lab work. As you encounter different situations and listen to different ideas, be willing to make decisions to improve the safety of the lab. Addressing situations on the spot and making decisions that improve safety will demonstrate the importance of safety in the lab, and the need and the impact of making effective decisions. Management participation in inspections can help resolve some of the gray areas discovered during periodic safety inspections.
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