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Make Learning How to be Safe an Integral Part of Education, Work, and Play

For too many years at academic institutions and some companies, health, safety, and the environment have been something extra. It's time that they become part of the process. 

by James A. Kaufman
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At Dow Chemical we were told that we were being paid to do three things: 1) work safely, 2) conduct active research programs, and 3) publish the reports and patent disclosures resulting from our research. Safety was part of the job—not something extra.

The slogan at the Bell System is: "No job is so important and no service so urgent that we cannot take time to perform our work safely." At Dow, it was each person's responsibility to be sure that their work could be performed safely. If you don't think it's safe to do, don't do it. LSI has paraphrased the Bell System slogan in one of ours: “No lesson is so important and no task so urgent that we cannot take time to teach, learn, and practice science safely.”

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These kinds of attitudes and values are built over time by companies and institutions that make it very clear that they value safety. Educators need to have the time—as part of their regular working day—to set-up and test experiments, to look up the hazards of chemicals, and to find out what protective equipment and protective facilities are needed. This IS the job.

There’s an interesting quote from Jacob Riiss:

“When nothing seems to help, I go and look at a stone cutter hammering away at his rock perhaps a hundred times without so much as a crack showing in it. Yet at the hundred and first blow it will split in two, and I know it was not that blow that did it—but all that had gone before.”

Source: Kaufman, James A., Laboratory Safety Guidelines - Expanded Edition, The Laboratory Safety Institute,