EH&S Safety News

Laboratory Safety Surveys Promoting a Culture of Safety
by Mark Murray

EH&S has completed a process improvement effort and “leaned” its laboratory safety survey program to provide more assistance and to promote a culture of safety in teaching and research laboratories.  The following program changes were implemented in April, 2013:

  • Direct notification to the department chair, rather than administrator, of an upcoming survey
  • A standardized checklist to provide consistent assessment of some 80 safety items representing a variety of subject areas
  • Explanation links and self-help tools provided to identify ways to address safety issues
  • Survey results provided to the responsible party for a laboratory (RP) within one to two business days after completion of the survey
  • Responses from responsible parties expected within 15 days
  • Tools to help promote a culture of safety including:
    • Lab safety training matrix
    • Personal protective equipment (PPE) assessment tool and training record
  • Close-out summary report of findings provided to the chair, including a breakout of serious items not yet addressed
  • A follow-up and escalation process for outstanding serious issues

These and other changes were developed by EH&S with input from a provost-initiated lean project that included EH&S and laboratory representatives.  Identified goals were:

  • Reducing turnaround time in providing survey reports to principle investigators and lab managers
  • Increasing the level of safety compliance in laboratories

Long terms goals include:

  • Developing a paperless process so that PIs and lab managers receive reports immediately and are able to report corrections electronically, and
  • Providing an electronic interface so that schools, colleges, departments, and safety committees may access results directly by viewing a dashboard which indicates how they are doing as compared to UW peers and to expectations.

The laboratory safety survey program evaluates about 4400 spaces across the UW, including laboratories in owned and leased space. The training matrix and PPE assessment tools provide important resources to assist PIs in complying with regulations and preventing injury. The lack of training and the failure to use PPE have been identified as major factors in the tragic fatality in a UCLA laboratory in December, 2008 as well as in other laboratory accidents. More information about that incident and the fallout may be found below.

Preliminary findings on training and PPE here at the UW indicate that many laboratories have work to do to meet minimum requirements.  To be prepared for your laboratory safety survey please review the checklist and explanations on the EH&S Web page in advance of your survey.


Web explanations:

Lab Safety Training Matrix:

Lab PPE Assessment Guide:

UCLA CalOSHA Investigation Report:



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