It may seem obvious, but lab safety cannot be overlooked. Becoming complacent in this area can lead to harmful consequences beyond just lost time in the lab and compromised experiments. Today we wanted to share a few tips to help you and your labmates recommit to safety in the lab so that everyone remains healthy and happy.
Put safety above productivity
We have written many blog posts about being productive in the lab and it is a really great thing, it is critical to make sure that the culture in your lab does not put efficiency over safety. When working, safety should always be the top priority. All employees should feel empowered to work at a pace that allows them to be as safe as possible.
Use a top down approach from management
If there are any managers reading, this one’s for you! You set the example for the whole rest of the team. You can help to inspire others by setting a good example and you can also spark conversations within your team about best practices.
Be aware of turnover rates
Studies have shown that small organizations and organizations with high rates of turnover have disproportionate rates of workplace safety incidents. In smaller workplaces, there is often a lack of resources to ensure that proper training takes place. In labs with high turnover, for example those on university campuses where students come and go, safety trainings often do not take place often enough to capture new employees as they begin. In other cases, these trainings are overlooked because they are difficult to track among so many employees. A concrete onboarding process can help to eliminate some of these safety concerns.
Encourage peer supports
Encouraging a culture of teamwork in the lab will make employees feel more comfortable seeking help if a safety issue arises. Not to mention, we all know the old saying “safety in numbers.”
Brainstorm how you will communicate changes in safety policies or reminders with your staff. Perhaps you create a safety Slack channel or an email list. It is critical that the whole team stays up to date since word of mouth is likely not the most effective way.
Add safety to performance evaluations
By adding safety as a category on employee evaluations, managers have a clear time during which they can check in with employees about their safety practices and any ongoing problems that need to be remedied. Additionally, knowing that they are being formally evaluated will add an additional incentive for employees to prioritize safety measures.
Don’t ignore emergency training
It is easy to ignore the possibility of an emergency because it may feel like nothing better is ever going to happen. Luckily, emergencies are very rare, but it is still important to be prepared to reduce the level of harm if something does go wrong. All workers should be fully briefed on how to handle an emergency situation and you should also have safety drills so the response is second nature if something were to happen.
Write it all down
Having written safety policies can help to hold others accountable, keep safety at the forefront of your mind, and make sure that everybody knows what is expected of them. If you do not currently have a set of written guidelines working together to draft them as a team can serve as a great team building exercise that can help everyone unite behind the same goals.
Think about waste
Every lab needs to have a system for the legal, safe, and ecologically acceptable disposal of chemical wastes. Every person working in the lab needs to be fully aware of this to avoid an negative harm, especially to the environment. If you aren’t sure how something is meant to be disposed of, do not just make your best guess. Refer to the safety manual or ask a supervisor.
We hope these ideas inspire you and your team to think about how you can recommit to being safe in the lab. Do you have a favorite safety tip or initiative? Share it with us on Twitter, @Conserisapp.
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