Our Work

Guide to Implementing a Safety Culture in Our Universities

About the Task Force on Laboratory Safety

The Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU) formed the Task Force on Laboratory Safety to provide research universities with recommendations and guidance on the most appropriate strategies to enhance a culture of laboratory safety. The task force, 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.

Significant events in recent years, including the death of a laboratory research assistant and a laboratory explosion that severely injured a graduate student, have raised awareness and highlighted the need for a stronger culture of safety in our colleges and universities. In response to this national need, the Task Force on Laboratory Safety has:

  • Actively reached out across the university and science communities to hear perspectives on strengthening laboratory culture of safety from over 20 organizations and 25 institutions;
  • Synthesized recommendations from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM); the ACS; and the U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board (CSB) into 20 actionable recommendations for implementing and sustaining a culture of academic and research safety; and
  • Developed a national implementation strategy that draws on relevant reports and research to provide recommendations that each campus can use to improve safety within its own unique campus culture.
  • Created a toolbox for each recommendation that includes reading lists, tools, strategies, illustrative examples, and/or best practices drawn from a community of stakeholders for implementing these recommendations.
  • Made a Call to Action to all universities to embrace a renewed commitment to improving the culture of safety for all academic research, scholarship, and teaching. The Task Force asked that college and university presidents publicize their commitments and expectations within their institutions. The Task Force encouraged all academic institutions to look beyond the traditional research laboratory to commit to improving safety in research and teaching laboratories; in shops, studios, and stages; in teaching classrooms; and in the field. The Task Force further recommended that APLU and its Council on Research (CoR) routinely recognize exemplary programs and sponsor an annual safety culture award.


  • Taylor Eighmy (Co-chair), Vice Chancellor for Research & Engagement, University of Tennessee, Knoxville
  • Mark McLellan (Co-chair), Vice President for Research and Dean of the School of Graduate Studies, Utah State University
  • Gene Block (Honorary Chair), Chancellor, University of California Los Angeles
  • Kimberly Espy, Senior Vice President for Research, University of Arizona
  • Mridul Gautam, Vice President for Research and Innovation, University of Nevada, Reno
  • Kimberly Jeskie, Director, Integrated Operations Support Division, Oak Ridge National Laboratory
  • Dawn Mason, Technology Manager, Eastman Chemical Company
  • Jan Novakofski, Associate Vice Chancellor for Research for Compliance, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
  • Patty Olinger, Assistant Vice President in the Office of Research Administration and Executive Director of Environmental Health and Safety, Emory University
  • Joanne Polzien, Executive Director of Compliance, Integrity and Safety, Michigan Technological University
  • Lesley Rigg, Dean of the Faculty of Science and Professor of Biology, University of Calgary
  • Ara Tahmassian, Chief Research Compliance Officer, Harvard University
  • Erik Talley, Vice President for Environmental Health and Safety, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center
  • William Tolman, Professor and Chair, Department of Chemistry, University of Minnesota, Twin Cities
  • Nancy Wayne, Associate Vice Chancellor for Research and Professor of Physiology, University of California Los Angeles
  • Alice Young, Associate Vice President for Research, Texas Tech University


  • Steve Bilbao, Director, Environmental Health & Safety, Utah State University
  • Robert Nobles,Associate Vice Chancellor for Research, Responsible Conduct of Research & Research Integrity Officer, University of Tennessee, Knoxville
  • Kacy Redd, Director, Science and Mathematics Education Policy, APLU


The Task Force thanks the following organizations for sharing their expertise with the Task Force: APLU’s Council on Research (CoR); Association of American Universities (AAU); American Chemical Society (ACS); Council On Governmental Relations (COGR); Council of Graduate Schools (CGS); National Research Council (NRC) of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM); U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board (CSB); Oak Ridge National Lab; Eastman Chemical Company; Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC); American Biological Safety Association (ABSA); Association for the Accreditation of Human Research Protection Programs (AAHRPP); Campus Safety, Health, and Environmental Management Association (CSHEMA); Association for Assessment and Accreditation of Laboratory Animal Care International (AAALAC); Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB); Federal Demonstration Partnership (FDP); University Risk Management and Insurance Association (URMIA); National Association of College and University Attorneys (NACUA); National Association of College and University Business Officers (NACUBO); National Postdoctoral Association (NPA); Council on Undergraduate Research (CUR); and Council of Colleges of Arts and Sciences (CCAS).

The Task Force thanks the following universities and colleges for sharing their expertise: Duke University; University of South Florida; University of Pittsburgh; University of California; University of Nebraska, Lincoln; The University of Utah; The University of Texas Health Science; Auburn University; University of Notre Dame; University of Arizona; Texas A&M University System; University of Maryland; University of Tennessee, Knoxville; Utah State University; University of California, Los Angeles; University of Arizona; University of Nevada, Reno; University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; Emory University; Michigan Technological University; University of Calgary; Harvard University; Cornell University; University of Minnesota, Twin Cities; and Texas Tech University.

The Task Force has included a chronology of Task Force meetings with these organizations, the original Task Force on Lab Safety Charter, and Position Paper.