Eighmy, who is Vice Chancellor for Research and Engagement at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, and McLellan, who is Vice President for Research and Dean of the School of Graduate Studies at Utah State University, serve as co-chairs of the APLU Task Force on Lab Safety. The Task Force produced A Guide to Implementing a Safety Culture in Our Universities in May to help institutions tackle the issue of research safety. The guide provides a set of recommendations and best practices for inculcating a culture of research safety in the lab. Both Eighmy and McLellan played a central role in the creation of the APLU task force and the guide it issued earlier this year.
At the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, Eighmy has been the driving force behind the institution’s efforts to inculcate a campus-wide commitment to enhanced lab safety. By serving on the university’s institutional compliance and institutional safety committees and advocating the implementation of safety measures more rigorous than even federal regulations require, Eighmy has demonstrated his commitment to research safety at the University of Tennessee. That commitment has extended nationally through his work on the APLU Lab Safety Task Force.
Over at Utah State University, McLellan has spearheaded efforts to ensure all members of campus view safety as a core value of the institution. He has worked to create a more robust set of resources that address research safety – from a strengthened safety strategy, to an expanded emergency response plan, to a near-miss reporting system that ensures that lessons are learned even from close calls in the lab. McLellan’s expertise led to his being named as co-chaired of the APLU Task Force on Laboratory Safety.
“This award really reflects the great work of the entire APLU Lab Safety Task Force,” said Eighmy. "We were very fortunate to have assembled a great team that tackled a challenging task. I can say unequivocally that we all believe that now is the time for universities to proactively nurture and grow their culture around improving lab safety on campus."
“I have been rocked personally with news about campus accidents over the years,” said McLellan. “It shakes you to the bone, and for me, it gave me drive to ensure that safety on campus at USU is a priority. The real impact of our work on this issue will be realized as laboratory and research related accidents begin to decrease across the US due to increased awareness and development of a culture of laboratory safety."
Designed for university presidents and chancellors who have pledged to commit their university to a renewed culture of research safety, the guide and website include 20 recommendations, each with an analysis of the alignment of the recommendation with other foundational reports, reading lists, tools, strategies, illustrative examples, and/or best practices drawn from a community of stakeholders. These resources were selected to help an appointed campus team navigate the process of strengthening their culture of safety.
In breaking the guidelines and website into 20 recommendations, the task force sought to provide a foundational resource that can be used by institutions regardless of the current practices they have in place to ensure research safety. Specifically, the guidelines seek to help research universities: 1) understand practical steps in implementing a ‘culture of safety’ in their laboratories; 2) document their commitment to laboratory safety excellence in order to benchmark against leading practice; 3) document their compliance with national, state, and institutional laboratory policies; 4) showcase their dedication to preventing and managing injury of individuals performing laboratory activities; and 5) limit the liability of college and university leadership by meeting established standards of excellence, including implementing mechanisms to document an institution’s commitment to developing and preserving a culture of safety and compliance.
The Task Force on Laboratory Safety, which APLU created in coordination with the Association of American Universities (AAU), the American Chemical Society (ACS), and the Council on Governmental Relations (COGR), is comprised of senior research officers, environmental health and safety officers, faculty, and industry and national laboratory representatives.