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American Chemical Society Issues Guidelines for Safer Research Laboratories

Released: 8/26/2013 7:00 AM EDT
Embargo expired: 9/10/2013 10:15 AM EDT
Source Newsroom: American Chemical Society (ACS)

Tuesday, Sept. 10, 2013, 10:15 a.m. Eastern Time

Note to journalists: Please report that this research was presented at a meeting of the American Chemical Society.

A press conference on this topic will be held Tuesday, Sept. 10, at 12:15 p.m. in the ACS Press Center, Room 211, in the Indiana Convention Center. Reporters can attend in person or access live audio and video of the event and ask questions at

Sep. 11, 2013 - INDIANAPOLIS, Sept. 10, 2013 — The world's largest scientific society today issued guidelines to better ensure the safety of the tens of thousands of personnel who work in research laboratories around the country. The American Chemical Society (ACS) issued the report, requested by a federal safety board, during its 246th National Meeting & Exposition. The meeting, which includes almost 7,000 reports on new advances in science and other topics, continues here through Thursday.

"Guidelines and standard operating procedures are common in industrial settings where chemicals and pharmaceuticals are manufactured in large amounts, but they are much less common in research laboratories, particularly in academia,” said Kimberly Jeskie. She chaired the 12-member task force that developed the guidelines and is a hazards analysis expert at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory. "Often, students and staff working in research labs do not identify and evaluate all potential hazards, especially physical hazards, when devising experiments. That is crucial to keep everyone safe and reduce the potential for harm."

The U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board (CSB), an independent federal agency that investigates industrial chemical accidents, requested the report in the aftermath of a 2010 laboratory accident at Texas Tech University in Lubbock, Texas. A graduate student was injured in the accident, and CSB found several safety lapses. CSB's investigation concluded that safety guidelines already in effect at research institutions typically are lacking when it comes to the safe handling of potentially explosive materials. And guidelines from the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration also do not specifically address this type of hazard.

CSB asked ACS to "develop good practice guidance that identifies and describes methodologies to assess and control hazards that can be used successfully in a research laboratory."

ACS' Committee on Chemical Safety, working with the Society's Division of Chemical Health and Safety, responded by assembling a task force, which wrote the report Identifying and Evaluating Hazards in Research Laboratories. The report states that key elements of hazard identification and evaluation include defining the scope of work, recognizing the potential hazards involved in every step of an experiment and evaluating the chances that a hazard will happen. It also discusses the selection and use of proper safety equipment and procedures. Continual learning is also an integral part of the process, the report states, citing the importance of reviewing the experiment and reflecting on the safety lessons learned.

The report will be introduced at the Indianapolis meeting through a symposium featuring Rafael Moure-Eraso, Ph.D., CSB Chair, with members of the task force describing the methodologies that can be used for hazards analysis by laboratory researchers.

"Safety in the research laboratory setting is the responsibility of all stakeholders involved in research activities throughout the institution, including administrators, as well as researchers," the report emphasizes. "For a hazards identification and evaluation process to be successful, everyone must know and be committed to their respective roles and obligations." The report is not intended to be a comprehensive guide on the development of a culture of chemical safety, but is rather geared specifically toward the identification, evaluation and mitigation of hazards as they exist in the research laboratory. "Additional information concerning the advancement of a safety culture may be found in the ACS report, titled Creating Safety Cultures in Academic Institutions: A Report of the Safety Culture Task Force of the ACS Committee on Chemical Safety," the report states.

The report includes five methods that scientists and students can put into practice immediately. They are Chemical Safety Levels, Job Hazards Analysis, What-If Analysis, Hazards Analysis Checklists and Structured Development of Standard Operating Procedures. It also includes discussions on how to use each technique, the situations in which a researcher should use a particular method, and the limitations and challenges associated with the methods.

Task Force members:

Kimberly Begley Jeskie, Task Force Chair
ACS Division of Chemical Health and Safety (CHAS), Past Chair
Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Oak Ridge, Tenn.

Peter Ashbrook, CHAS Member
University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

Dominick Casadonte, ACS Member
Interim Dean of the Graduate School and Past Chair
Department of Chemistry, Texas Tech University, Lubbock

Debbie Decker, CHAS Member
University of California, Davis

Laurence J. Doemeny, Committee Chemical Safety (CCS), Past Chair
National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (Ret.), San Diego, Calif.

Robert H. Hill, Jr., CCS Chair
Battelle, Technical On-Site Professional Services, Atlanta, Ga.

Todd Houts, CCS Member
University of Missouri, St. Louis

Ken Kretchman, CHAS Member
North Carolina State University, Raleigh

Robin Izzo, CCS, Laboratory Chemical and Waste Management Task Force Chair
Princeton University, N.J.

Samuella B. Sigmann, CHAS Member
Appalachian State University, Boone, N.C.

Erik Talley, CHAS Member
Weill Medical College of Cornell University, New York, N.Y.

Marta U. Gmurczyk, ACS Staff Liaison to CCS
American Chemical Society, Washington, D.C.

Journalists can obtain copies of Identifying and Evaluating Hazards in Research Laboratories by contacting

Related abstracts appear below.

The American Chemical Society is a nonprofit organization chartered by the U.S. Congress. With more than 163,000 members, ACS is the world's largest scientific society and a global leader in providing access to chemistry-related research through its multiple databases, peer-reviewed journals and scientific conferences. Its main offices are in Washington, D.C., and Columbus, Ohio.

To automatically receive news releases from the American Chemical Society, contact

Kimberly Jeskie
One Bethel Valley Rd.
P.O. Box 2008, MS-6256
Oak Ridge, Tenn. 37831-6256


Introducing the ACS publication "Identifying and Evaluating Hazards in Research Laboratories
Kimberly B Jeskie,, Integrated Operations Support Division, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Oak Ridge, TN 37831-6256, United States

On October 19, 2011, the US Chemical Safety Board (CSB) released its final report into a January 7, 2010, chemistry laboratory explosion at Texas Tech University in Lubbock, Texas, recommending that the American Chemical Society (ACS) develop new hazard evaluation guidelines for laboratories. The CSB recommendation was born out of its concern that laboratory safety, when compared to industry, is an area that is unregulated and lacks good practice guidance. They note that there is an OSHA laboratory standard requiring universities to create Chemical Hygiene Plans, but its focus is on exposure hazards and health hazards of the research work being conducted. The board found that there is no comprehensive guidance for conducting hazard evaluations within the dynamic environment of academic research laboratories. In response to that recommendation, the ACS tasked the Committee on Chemical Safety to produce such a publication building on the recently released Safety Culture in Academic Institutions publication. It is with great pleasure, that Ms. Jeskie will introduce the task force members responsible for creating the document and provide an overview of the document itself.

Texas Tech University laboratory explosion
Rafael Moure-Eraso,, US Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board, Washington, D.C., Washington, D.C. 20037-1809, United States

On October 19, 2011, the U.S. Chemical Safety Board (CSB) released its final report into a January 7, 2010, chemistry laboratory explosion at Texas Tech University (TTU) in Lubbock, Texas. Resulting from that investigation were recommendations to the American Chemical Society (ACS) to develop new hazard evaluation guidelines for laboratories and to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to issue a Safety Bulletin on the importance of controlling the physical hazards of chemicals in academic laboratories. The accident occurred during the handling of explosive compounds and resulted in serious injuries to a graduate student. The CSB's investigation identified systemic deficiencies in safety accountability and oversight at TTU. Beyond the accident at TTU, the CSB identified other important gaps in the regulatory framework and guidance for university laboratory safety.  Research conducted at university laboratories is often on the forefront of technology and innovation and must be done within a strong safety culture based upon effective safety management systems where preventing hazards is an important value. The CSB continues to advocate for comprehensive hazard evaluation guidance that is directly applicable to the dynamic nature of academic laboratory research and can prevent future accidents.

Why strong safety cultures use hazard analysis
Robert H. Hill,, Technical On-site Professional Services, Battelle Memorial Institute, Atlanta, Georgia 30329, United States
Strong safety cultures result when leaders within an institution ensure that safety is always considered in everything, including research. Creating and maintaining strong safety cultures requires that faculty and staff promote safety and teach safety through the curriculum. This process builds strong positive attitude and care toward safety as well as a sound knowledge of safety among students. As a result when students begin to conduct research they understand how to recognize hazards and assess the risks of those hazards so that plans can be made to minimize the risks of hazards. This paper discusses how to create safety cultures so hazard analyses become an normal part of the research process.

Hazard assessment of chemicals and chemical groups using a control banding technique
Debbie M Decker,, Department of Chemistry, University of California, Davis, Davis, CA 95616, United States
Control banding is a useful tool to develop baseline safety requirements in laboratories and other settings - the most common example are the risk groups and biosafety levels developed by the NIH/CDC. Our workteam developed a straightforward tool to create control bands applied to chemicals - chemical safety levels. Parallelling the biosafety levels, four chemical safety levels are presented and the underlying logic of the assignment is discussed.

Job hazard analysis (JHA): A hazard assessement tool
Samuella B Sigmann,, Department of Chemistry, Appalachian State University, Boone, NC 28608, United States
A Job Hazard Analysis (JHA) is an assessment tool that focuses on the relationship between the researcher, the task to be done, the tools needed to complete the task, and the work environment where the task will be performed in order to identify the hazards associated with the task. JHAs have been used successfully for many years in industrial settings and can be effectively adapted for academic laboratory use. JHAs can be used by all researchers working in academic laboratories to analyze the tasks that will be used in upcoming laboratory projects for identifying potential chemical and physical hazards so that corrective and preventative actions (CAPAs) or controls can be implemented. Many (including OSHA) publish guidance documents for JHA preparation.

Hazard review methodologies: "What If" analysis
Kenneth W. Kretchman,, Environmental Health and Safety, NC State University, Raleigh, NC 27695-8007, United States
An ACS task force was formed in response to a US Chemical Safety Board investigation and report following a serious laboratory incident. This group was tasked to generate a document providing information on conducting hazard analyses in research settings. This presentation will summarize the application, benefits, and limitations to use of a What If and What If / Haz Op hazard review approach for research applications.

Utilizing checklists when identifying and evaluating hazards in research laboratories
Erik A Talley,, Environmental Health and Safety, Weill Cornell Medical College, New York, New York 10065, United States
Checklists play an important role when identifying and evaluating hazards in the research laboratory. Checklists may be used by many different groups, including safety support staff, Principal Investigators, and designated lab staff. A properly constructed checklist can be an effective tool for assessing hazards and implementing safe work practices.  Developing an effective checklist requires (1) a clearly defined scope; (2) collaboration with those knowledgeable on the work activities and the implementation of safe work practices; (3) developing concise procedures and checklists; (4) checklist testing and training; and (5) the support of institutional or departmental administration.  This presentation will provide clarification of the steps to developing effective checklists, pros and cons of using checklists, and real-world examples of behavior and process-based safety checklists.

Structured development of SOPs: A laboratory hazard assessment tool
Peter C Ashbrook1,, Janice Dodge2, Shelly Bradley3, John Palmer4. (1) Division of Research Safety, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Urbana, IL 61801, United States, (2) Environmental Health and Safety, Florida State University, Tallahassee, FL 32306, United States, (3) Chemistry, Hendrix College, Conway, AR 72032, United States, (4) Chemistry & Biochemistry, University of California-San Diego, La Jolla, CA 92093, United States
Structured Development of SOPs is a laboratory hazard assessment tool developed by the ACS Committee on Chemical Safety's Hazard Assessment Task Force. This tool makes use of other hazard assessment methods in a highly structured method to provide a comprehensive review of hazards associated with laboratory research. The products of using this method make it very easy to prepare Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) to minimize the potential for and consequences of laboratory incidents. This presentation will address reasons to use this method, potential limitations, and tips for successfully using this method.

Texas Tech: An update on safety culture changes and how we plan to use the ACS hazard identification and evaluation document as part of the process
Dominick J Casadonte,, Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, Texas Tech University, Lubbock, Texas 79409, United States

As a result of a serious accident at Texas Tech University in 010 and the subsequent investigation and report by the Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board (CSB) into the causes and practices associated with the accident, ongoing steps are being taken by Texas Tech to improve its culture of safety. In continuing conversations with the CSB as well as members of the American Chemical Society (ACS) Division of Chemical Health and Safety (CHAS), several information and procedure gaps related to the national academic laboratory safety culture conversation have become clear. It is our aim at Texas Tech to act both as an agent to improve local safety culture as well as a catalyst for change concerning the mindsets of academic laboratory environments around the country. This presentation will provide an update on our continuing efforts with regard to safety culture development at Texas Tech, as well as our plan to use the new ACS document "Identifying and Evaluating Hazards in Research Laboratories" as an educational tool for improving discussions concerning laboratory safety at both the laboratory and institutional levels.

Recognizing good when you see it: Evaluating the effectiveness of your hazard identification and evaluation processes
Kimberly B Jeskie,, Integrated Operations Support Division, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Oak Ridge, TN 37831-6256, United States

Providing tools and instruction on identifying and evaluating hazards are good first steps for an institution to take; however, they are not sufficient to fully integrate the processes into the culture of an organization. In this talk, Ms. Jeskie will lead a discussion on additional actions an institution should consider with emphasis on assessment. She will present suggestions for how an organization can assess the effectiveness of its hazard identification and evaluation processes.


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