Lab Manager | Run Your Lab Like a Business
Safety Excellence Awards banner
Credit: Future Fields, Lab Manager

Revamping a Lab's Safety Culture

Mia Dennis and Lia Firth, recipients of Lab Manager's 2024 Most Improved Safety Culture award, worked together to revamp the safety culture at their lab after an internal safety survey

Holden Galusha

Holden Galusha is the associate editor for Lab Manager. He was a freelance contributing writer for Lab Manager before being invited to join the team full-time. Previously, he was the...

ViewFull Profile.
Learn about ourEditorial Policies.
Register for free to listen to this article
Listen with Speechify

In a series of brand-new awards, Lab Manager is honoring individuals who exceptional contributions to their organization’s lab safety endeavors or culture. Mia Dennis, financial associate, and Lia Firth, quality control lead of startup Future Fields, are joint recipients of the Most Improved Safety Culture award for their work in overhauling the safety culture and practices at their organization, including establishing a Health, Safety, and Environment committee that enacted 24 corrective actions, achieved an over 30 percent increase in reporting, and has established a track record of successful incident mitigations.

“I was impressed with the organization’s willingness to perform a safety culture survey to better understand how employees viewed safety in the lab,” says award judge Dan Scungio. “They used that data to start where they should: performing risk assessments for all their processes. The change in their safety culture is obvious when looking at their engagement in PPE purchasing, leadership involvement, and the creation of a committee which would guide the culture improve as time passes.”

Take our IACET-accredited Lab Safety program and earn CEUs.
Lab Safety Certificate

Associate editor Holden Galusha spoke with Mia and Lia about what prompted their respective interests in safety and how Lab Manager helped them enact positive change.

Q: Can you briefly discuss your background and what you do in your current role?

Mia Dennis: Most of my professional career has been spent in leisure, tourism, and hospitality management both in North America and abroad, however I also hold a BSc in neuroscience from the University of Lethbridge and rekindled my love for science here at Future Fields. I currently hold the position of finance associate, but also support compliance in multiple other areas of the company, particularly health and safety, as I co-chair our safety committee with my colleague, Lia Firth.

Lia Firth: I am a University of Alberta graduate (BSc pharmacology) and have been working in Good Laboratory Practice (GLP) environments for over 15 years with a focus on supporting the development and manufacture of pharmaceuticals. I am the quality control lead at Future Fields. Currently, I oversee the building up of our lab’s testing capabilities, quality, and safety compliance.

Q: What was your reaction to winning this award, and what does it mean to you to win?

Mia Dennis: I was thrilled when I heard our team had won this award! It is a wonderful recognition of the investment we have made in building our safety culture, and a motivation to continue in these efforts!

Lia Firth: I felt proud of our team and the work we have completed thus far in establishing and growing our safety program. Winning helps to validate our accomplishments and increases our drive to do more!

Q: What inspired you to focus on safety in your professional life?

Mia Dennis: While compliance and risk management have been a common thread through much of my career, I did not start to focus on safety until I joined Future Fields and had the opportunity to join the recently formed safety committee. It has been a privilege to learn and grow alongside our amazing team who bring a wealth of experience and show such dedication to continually improving our safety program and culture.

Lia Firth: I came into my safety journey pretty early on. At 16 years old, I participated in my first safety risk assessment for a haunted house our drama group was hosting for a large oil company event. I didn’t know it then, but that experience sparked an interest in safety, risk management and quality. I have been fortunate to work for companies since then with robust safety programs. A strong sense of the importance of safety has carried with me throughout my career. I look forward to fostering a strong safety culture at Future Fields.

Q: How has Lab Manager's content helped you bolster your lab's safety practices/culture?

Mia Dennis: From the beginning of my journey, I have found the content available from Lab Manager to be instrumental in improving my understanding of safety in the laboratory context as well as providing excellent tools and communication methods that we have incorporated into our safety program as it has grown.

Lia Firth: I am continually surprised by the quality and relevancy of the information presented. Presenters are engaging and present examples of improvements that can easily be applied to every lab. Some examples of content that has helped to bolster our safety culture include adoption of a safety talk at weekly lab team meetings conducted by a different member of the group, better lab organization and hazardous chemical handling practices, and improvements to our safety inspections.

Q: What do you enjoy doing outside of work?

Mia Dennis: Outside of work, I volunteer with a number of local organizations and also enjoy spending time with family, dancing, traveling, and exploring a variety of side projects.

Lia Firth: Outside of work, I spend my time raising two amazing children and spoiling our crazy cats. I like to unwind through dance, yoga and exploring our province’s natural beauty and festivals.

Mia’s career journey:

Mia Dennis serves as an associate within the Finance and Administration department at Future Fields. Having earned her BSc in neuroscience from the University of Lethbridge, she has expanded her professional expertise across a broad range of industries including agriculture, hospitality management, education, tourism, and biotechnology. Mia is passionate about sustainability and excited to leverage her interdisciplinary experience in life sciences and business administration to effect positive change in the world. Beyond her professional endeavors, she actively volunteers with community organizations and enjoys spending time with family and on a diverse portfolio of side projects.

Lia’s career journey:

Lia Firth is the quality control lead at Future Fields. She has a BSc in pharmacology from the University of Alberta and over 15 years of experience in lab environments focused on supporting development and manufacture of pharmaceuticals and biologics. Her expertise encompasses analytical testing, method validation and equipment qualification, bolstered by extensive knowledge of FDA regulations and GMP guidelines. Lia is passionate about quality as well as safety, and she has served on multiple safety committees throughout her career. Outside of work, Lia enjoys dance, gardening, and chasing after her kids and cats.