Learning Experience Reports Improve Academic Research Safety

Yangming Kou, Xiayu Peng, Claire E. Dingwell, Spencer A. Reisbick, Ian A. Tonks, Anna A. Sitek

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations

Abstract

While lab accidents that involved personal injuries or significant property damage are required to be reported by law, many minor lab incidents or near misses are less frequently reported, especially in an academic research environment. However, public awareness of these stories and incidents create valuable learning opportunities and can prevent similar mishaps from happening in the future. Inspired by a near miss reporting system from the Dow Chemical Company, the University of Minnesota Joint Safety Team, a student-led safety initiative between the departments of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering and Materials Science, developed the Learning Experience Reports (LERs) system as a platform to self-report and share safety stories occurring within the two departments. LERs are short, anonymous, voluntary submissions by researchers who were either directly involved with or witnessed a safety-related incident, near miss, or observation of unsafe practices. In this report, we compiled and analyzed 85 LERs submitted by researchers from Departments of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering & Materials Science at the University of Minnesota during 2014-2019. Most notable from our results was that the top three most frequently occurring hazards were spill, fire, and equipment failures. LERs encourage open discussions of lab incidents and near misses through honest, compelling stories among academic researchers and educate researchers to follow better lab practices. For university administrators, LERs complement existing hazard assessment and incident reporting methods and allow a better understanding of the current research safety landscape among the student body. For researchers, the LER system allows them to develop safety awareness at an early stage and benefit their future careers. Hence, we strongly recommend academic research institutions to adopt a similar LER system to improve the safety culture in academia. Here, we outline the logistics required to implement an effective LER distribution system as well as provide the cumulative data in order to ease the setup of a system for others.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)150-157
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Chemical Education
Volume98
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 12 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors gratefully acknowledge every anonymous LER respondent over the past 5 years. We thank Celina Harris, Meghan Knudtzon, and past JST Analysis and Compliance committee members for compiling the JST survey results, and Professors Phil Buhlmann (CHEM), Raul Caretta (CEMS), Chris Douglas (CHEM), and Chris Ellison (CEMS) for providing their testimonials towards LERs. We also thank the administrative support from both the CHEM and CEMS departments as well as funding from the Dow Chemical Company and Sherwin-Williams to sustain the JST.

Funding Information:
The authors gratefully acknowledge every anonymous LER respondent over the past 5 years. We thank Celina Harris, Meghan Knudtzon, and past JST Analysis and Compliance committee members for compiling the JST survey results, and Professors Phil Buhlmann (CHEM) Raul Caretta (CEMS), Chris Douglas (CHEM), and Chris Ellison (CEMS) for providing their testimonials towards LERs. We also thank the administrative support from both the CHEM and CEMS departments as well as funding from the Dow Chemical Company and Sherwin-Williams to sustain the JST.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 American Chemical Society. All rights reserved.

Copyright:
Copyright 2021 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.

Keywords

  • Collaborative/Cooperative Learning
  • Graduate Education/Research
  • Laboratory Management
  • Safety/Hazards

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