Policy expands channel to address research safety incidents


An expanded policy, designed by the Research and Academic Safety Committee and Environment, Health & Safety, aims to enhance how the University of Michigan community addresses and resolves laboratory and research safety concerns.

Schools, colleges and research units have safety accountability plans in place to define local processes to appropriately manage safety issues and, if needed, elevate issues within the unit for resolution.

Faculty, staff and students should first follow their unit’s process for reporting issues. If after following the procedures outlined by their local unit, they still feel the issue is not adequately addressed, the safety resolution policy allows them to follow up directly with the RASC, as appropriate.

The policy was guided by the RASC executive leadership team: Laurie McCauley, provost and executive vice president for academic affairs; Geoffrey Chatas, executive vice president and chief financial officer; Marschall Runge, executive vice president for medical affairs, dean of the Medical School and CEO of Michigan Medicine; and Rebecca Cunningham, vice president for research and innovation.

“The safety resolution policy applies to requests for reviews of issues that have followed the applicable procedures within their local unit and continue to generate concerns that have not been adequately addressed. Resolution at the local level is encouraged and expected, where appropriate,” said Danielle Sheen, EHS executive director.

“Our team designed this policy with feedback from safety committee chairs across the university, safety accountability leads, EHS inspectors and other key collaborators to encourage employees to prioritize safety in all academic and research spaces.”

Compliance issues that fall under the purview of other compliance committees, including the Institutional Biosafety Committee, Radiation Policy Committee and Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee, will continue to be referred to those compliance entities, according to applicable policies and processes.

The RASC will discuss an issue with the unit safety committee, EHS and unit leadership to determine if additional review by the RASC is appropriate, or if referral back to the unit or another review body is more suitable.

If the RASC determines that further review is necessary, it will conduct a balanced, unbiased investigation and vote on a recommendation for resolution. The RASC executive leadership team then will make a final determination, based on the recommendation for resolution.

The RASC aims to reach a resolution within 60 days of an issue’s submission. Possible outcomes include recommended retraining, increased safety monitoring, limits on work hours, suspension of specific activities or the use of certain chemicals, or the closure of a laboratory.

“This policy serves as an additional resource to ensure researchers have every opportunity to voice any possible concerns they might have about safety in their space,” said Karl Jepsen, associate dean for research at the Medical School and RASC chair.

“Creating a culture of safety for every student, researcher and staff member in a U-M space is our ultimate goal.”


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