Where Do We Begin?
Where Do We Begin?

As many of you know, I worked with Terry Jo Gile, The Safety Lady®, for five years before she retired in December of 2013. One thing I noticed was that some people in the Lab Safety field come and go! Some of us have been here for a long time, while others are new to this sometimes confusing world! If you’re new to the Lab Safety role, first of all, welcome! This is an exciting field in an exciting time- lots of changes are occurring that affect lab safety, and it is important to stay on top of that. FYI, so you don’t feel alone, this is my first year of flying solo as a lab safety consultant: that includes providing the monthly newsletter, running the Safety Academy, delivering presentations, and providing on-site lab safety consulting. While I know this is a big responsibility, and while I can only hope to live up to Terry Jo’s legacy and honor her decades of work in the field, I am excited for the opportunity. My hope is to improve lab safety everywhere for the sake of you and your co-workers.

So if you’re new to the lab safety role, and you’re not sure where to start, what do you do? First, make an assessment of the lab safety program. Look for your Lab Safety Manual. Does it exist? Do people know where it is? Is it up to date? Starting with lab safety policies and procedures is a vital first step. The manual can be in paper form or it can be electronic, but all staff should have access to it and be familiar with its contents.

Next, define your Lab Safety Committee. No matter the size of the lab, you should have an active committee made up of lab staff. If you work in a small lab and the lab sits on a hospital or facility committee, let more than one person participate with that larger committee.   If the lab has its own committee, meet with them at least monthly. Review injuries and accidents, review safety audit findings, and teach the team to coach their peers on safety issues.

Lastly, look at the safety indicators for your department. They should be a part of the laboratory’s overall Quality program. Review the indicators for relevance. Monitor indicators that have been issues for your lab. Consider proactive indicators as well, such as attendance at safety meetings.

If your role is lab safety, it is important to take the lead in your overall program. Staff will look to you as the safety resource and role model. Safety awareness and education need to be consistent and on-going. Start with these steps and your safety program will begin to soar. Remember, I’m here with you. If you need help, I’m just a phone call or e-mail away. Good luck and welcome aboard!    

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