Units partner to streamline, strengthen research safety processes

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To continue strengthening laboratory and research safety across the University of Michigan, Environment, Health and Safety is partnering with the U-M Research and Academic Safety Committee to develop and implement a new phase of its research safety initiative.

The Research and Academic Safety Committee, formerly known as the Laboratory and Research Safety Committee, was recently renamed to better reflect the wide range of spaces in which research and scholarship are conducted on and off-campus.

The committee has oversight responsibility for academic and research activities that involve potentially hazardous materials or equipment, occurring in laboratories, shops or studios affiliated with the Ann Arbor campus.

The new phase of the initiative known as “Safety First, Safety Every Day” is launching in unison with safety process changes EHS has implemented based on feedback from laboratory directors, unit safety committees and others. The changes are designed to reduce burden while also increasing adherence to research safety requirements.

In the initiative’s first stage, launched in 2015, the university made substantial progress toward improving research safety. Researchers formed unit-level safety committees, improved adherence to personal protection equipment procedures, and increased collaboration with EHS representatives.

The Research and Academic Safety Committee and EHS partnered with schools and colleges to establish policies and processes that help unit-level leaders be more actively involved in ensuring their teams comply with university guidelines and policies.

“Safety is an institutional value at the University of Michigan that is ingrained in everything we do, from academics to research, scholarship and creative practice,” said Rebecca Cunningham, vice president for research and the William G. Barsan Collegiate Professor of Emergency Medicine.

“Exceptional research means safe research, and there is a strong commitment across our three campuses to ensure that safety is prioritized in every one of our research environments.”

One example of the updates is the development of a separate report for facility issues. EHS will soon reach out to units to set up a new process for the remediation of hazards that are beyond the authority or ability of the laboratory director to correct. The Research and Academic Safety Committee also is providing ongoing feedback to help units keep track of their progress in addressing safety deficiencies.

Another component of the initiative is a redesigned web portal with resources to help U-M faculty, staff and students find information needed to support them in conducting their research safely.

The portal also includes a new survey to allow members of the U-M research community to give feedback on the culture of safety in research spaces.

Working together, the U-M research community will continue to strengthen the culture of research and laboratory safety, ensuring all faculty, staff and students work and thrive in a safe environment.

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