Safety Day Priority Registration

STEM Safety Day Priority Registration

Friday, September 6, 2024
Cleone Peterson Eccles Alumni House
155 Central Campus Drive

STEM Safety Day brings faculty, staff and experts together from throughout campus To offer trainings and updates on laboratory, clinical, classroom and workplace safety.

This free, multi-campus partner event, hosted by the College of Science, Spencer Fox Eccles School of Medicine, John and Marcia Price College of Engineering, College of Pharmacy, and Environmental Health and Safety, offers seminars, trainings, and sessions designed to help our community better understand and mitigate health and safety hazards associated with working in STEM fields at the U. Whether you spend most of your time in a lab, a patient-facing setting, or an office, you will find relevant sessions to improve safety in your area of work.

Space is limited for many sessions. Those who use the priority registration link will have the first opportunity to sign up for individual trainings, seminars, and meals when the finalized agenda is published later this summer. Mark your calendar for Friday, September 6 and take advantage of priority registration below.

Safety Day Priority Registration

To add this event to your calendar, click here and select "add to my calendar." If you have questions about this event, contact David Thomas at


Safety Day

University of Utah STEM safety day

Friday, September 6, 2024
Cleone Peterson Eccles Alumni House
155 Central Campus Drive

STEM Safety Day brings faculty, staff and experts together from throughout campus to offer trainings and updates on laboratory, clinical, classroom and workplace safety.

This free, multi-campus partner event, hosted by the College of Science, Spencer Fox Eccles School of Medicine, John and Marcia Price College of Engineering, College of Pharmacy, and Environmental Health and Safety, offers seminars, trainings, and sessions designed to help our community better understand and mitigate health and safety hazards associated with working in STEM fields at the U. Whether you spend most of your time in a lab, a patient-facing setting, or an office, you will find relevant sessions to improve safety in your area of work.

Space is limited for many sessions. Those who use the priority registration link will have the first opportunity to sign up for individual trainings, seminars, and meals when the finalized agenda is published later this summer. Mark your calendar for Friday, September 6 and take advantage of priority registration.


If you have questions about this event, contact David Thomas, Director of Safety for the College of Science at


Thanks to our STEM Safety Day Sponsors:



Safety Committee

2023-2024 COS Safety Committee Members

Dr. Charlie Jui (Physics and Astronomy):

David Thomas (COS Director of Safety):

Dr. Huiwen Ji (Materials Science and Engineering):

Isabelle Harward (Manager of Educational Labs at CSC):

Dr. Jessica Brown (School of Biological Sciences):

Dr. Jim Muller (COS Executive Director of Facilities Management):

Nathan Watchman (Environmental Health and Safety Ex. Officio Member):

Dr. Ryan Looper (Chemistry):

Wil Mace (Geology and Geophysics, Atmospheric Sciences, Mining Engineering):

Dr. W.P. Lee (Mathematics):

Safety Awards


Each year, the Safety Committee recognizes leaders within the College of Science who have contributed significantly to creating a safe learning and working environment. The Safety Awards highlight leadership throughout the College that demonstrate leadership in safety in the lab, in the classroom and in the workplace.

EHS Partnership Award

The EHS Partnership Award is given to an individual or group who exemplifies what it means to partner with the campus Environmental Health and Safety team to create a safer work environment for themselves and those around them.

2023 EHS Partnership Awardee: Peter Armentrout

Dr. Peter Armentrout

Distinguished Professor of Chemistry Peter Armentrout is the recipient of the 2023 EHS Partnership Award. Armentrout was recognized with this award because of his tireless efforts to promote safety within his department and finding opportunities to leverage the support of the Environmental Health and Safety (EHS) Department at the University of Utah.

“My group and I are honored to have been awarded the inaugural Environmental Health and Safety Partnership Award. This is a testament to our continued commitment to conducting research in the safest manner possible. As our research utilizes high voltages, compressed gas cylinders, radioactive elements, and occasionally toxic compounds, we have tried to provide a safe environment for handling these items for all participants, which includes undergraduate students, graduate students, postdoctoral fellows, and national and international visitors. The partnership award shows that we have been responsive to suggestions from EHS regarding how we can improve our safety protocols."

Learn more about Amentrout's EHS award at the Department of Chemistry's website.


Excellence in Safety Award

The Excellence in Safety Award was created to highlight the efforts of those members of our College of Science community who go the extra mile to prioritize safety in the workplace. The individual receiving this annual award is someone who exemplifies a culture of safety, not through perfection or the absence of mistakes, but rather through the recognition of areas for growth and the determination and drive to continually improve the safety of their work environment and of those around them.

2023 Excellence in Safety Awardee: Maria Garcia

Maria Garcia

Research Associate in the Department of Atmospheric Sciences, Maria Garcia is the recipient of the 2023 Excellence in Safety Award. Garcia has taken great strides to improve safety within her department and throughout the College of Science.

Dr. Gannet Hallar, who nominated Garcia for the Safety Award, credits her leadership and collaboration skills. "Maria Garcia is an exceptional staff member, and we are very fortunate to have her within our college. Maria spends a significant amount of time working with undergraduate and graduate students, in the lab and doing fieldwork.  She instructs them how to work safely in both environments, as well as giving them guidance on their work.  Through empathy and respect, she successfully builds rapport and trust with students which allows for positive learning outcomes."


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Health & Wellness Podcast

Health & Wellness Podcast

The College of Science Safety Committee recognizes the importance of heath and wellness as part of a safe working environment. That is why we created our Health and Wellness podcast Pace Yourself, hosted by Science Career Coach Alex Barilec and Science Writer David Pace. This 30-minute series delves into each dimension of wellbeing: physical, vocational, emotional, social, intellectual, financial, environmental and spiritual. The Pace Yourself podcast is created as resource for students, employees and faculty to develop the skills they need to maintain and improve all areas of health.

Pilot Episode - Introduction
Listen Here
Episode 1 - Physical Wellness
Listen Here
Episode 2 - Vocational Wellness
Listen Here
Episode 3 - Emotional Wellness
Listen Here
Episode 4 - Social Wellness
Listen Here
Episode 5 - Intellectual Wellness
Listen Here
Episode 6 - Financial Wellness
Listen Here
Episode 7- Spiritual Wellness
Listen Here
Episode 8 - Environmental Wellness
Listen Here
Season 1 Final Wrap-up
Listen Here

Podcast Hosts

Alex Barilec

Science Career Coach

Alex Barilec

Science Career Coach
Former career coach for the College of Science, Alex Barilec is an ICF Certified Life and Leadership Coach who helps students and professionals create the meaningful life they desire by improving their wellbeing, enhancing performance and clarifying purpose. He is an avid outdoor athlete who loves to run and ski along the Wasatch Front.

David Pace

Science Writer

David Pace

Science Writer
David G. Pace, MA, is a science writer for the College of Science. He is the author of a novel and a collection of short fiction, the latter due out in Feb. 2024, and his creative work and journalism have appeared in national, regional and local publications and journals. A Utah native, he blogs about culture, politics and literature at
The Pace Yourself Podcast and content posted are presented solely for general informational, educational, and entertainment purposes. The use of information on this podcast or materials linked from this podcast or website is at the user’s own risk. It is not intended as a substitute for the advice of a physician, professional coach, psychotherapist, or other qualified professional, diagnosis, or treatment. Users should not disregard or delay in obtaining medical advice for any medical or mental health condition they may have and should seek the assistance of their healthcare professionals for any such conditions. 

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Safety Day

U of U STEM safety day

STEM Safety Day brings faculty, staff and experts together from throughout campus offer trainings and updates on laboratory, clinical, classroom and workplace safety.



Shelly Beck
Assistant Professor, Department of Health & Kinesiology
Shelly Beck is an Assistant Professor (Lecturer) for the Department of Health and Kinesiology at the University of Utah. Shelly has been instructing pre-hospital emergency courses for over 20 years. During this time Shelly has also worked as an Advanced EMT in many pre-hospital settings; specializing in event and mass gathering emergency response.
John Bird
University Fire Prevention Specialist
John Bird is the Fire Prevention Specialist for the University of Utah.

Aaron Fogelson
Safety Committee Chair, Department of Mathematics
Aaron Fogelson is the Safety Committee Chair for the University of Utah Department of Mathematics. Aaron is also a College of Science Safety Committee member.
Mary Handy
Assoc. Director, Asst. Radiation Safety Officer, Environmental Health & Safety
Mary Handy is a Health Physicist with nearly 30 years of experience in radiation safety. With a strong background in ionizing and non-ionizing hazards, she has established herself as a highly skilled and respected professional in this field. Throughout her career, Mary has worked with a diverse range of service industries, including academic, consulting, energy production, and as a government subcontractor. She also serves as a Co-Chair of the ANSI Z136.8 (Safe Use of Lasers in Research, Development, or Testing). She is committed to safety and compliance, and continues to works towards being a liaison with the demands of the safety industry and the needs of the customer. Mary holds a MS in Environmental Engineering with a Health Physics emphasis from the University of Florida, and regularly participates in Health Physics and Laser Safety professional conferences.
Isabelle Harward
Manager of Educational Laboratory Facilities, Crocker Science Center
Isabelle has been working in the scientific field for the past 12 years in industrial and government labs in the fields of Chemistry and Biology. She was previously the Laboratory Manager for the Material Science and Engineering department and has recently transitioned into Laboratory Manager for the College of Science. Unsurprisingly, she loves cats.

Steve Hawker
Account Manager, Fisher Scientific
Account Manager for Fisher Scientific, Research & Safety Division.

Clint Haymond
University Fire Marshal
Clint Haymond is the Fire Marshal for the University of Utah.

Chris Hunter
Assistant Biosafety Officer
Chris Hunter completed his B.S. in Biology at the University of Utah in 1997. Chris began his career at the University of Utah in 1999. During his time at the “U” Chris has been involved with research on campus, serving as a laboratory technician and/or laboratory manager to a few of the laboratories on campus. In 2022 Chris joined the Environmental Health and Safety Department as the Assistant Biosafety Officer and serves as an IBC Administrator.
EHS Compliance Team
The EHS Compliance Team is comprised of Safety Compliance Manager Alicia Duprey-Gatrell, Compliance Specialist Jill Frei and Compliance Specialist Nathan Barlow. The EHS Safety Compliance team is responsible for the improvement, updates and questions regarding the Safety Administrative Management System (SAM). They provide compliance services to both EHS and the larger University Community.
Larhonda Johnson Horton
Director for Student Support and Accountability, Office of the Dean of Students
LaRhonda Johnson Horton currently serves as the Director for Student Support and Accountability at the University of Utah. She is an experienced educator, thought leader and higher education administrator. As a practitioner, she supports individuals and institutions with proactively identifying, appropriately responding, and optimally resolving challenges. LaRhonda is dedicated to educating the university community on how to be effective leaders with regards to student support and accountability practices encompassing research, best practices, and well-being strategies. Johnson-Horton earned a Bachelor of Arts in Religious Studies from Elon University and a Master of Education in College Student Personnel Administration from James Madison University.
Reggie Johnson
Police Sergeant, University Police
Reggie began his Law Enforcement career at the UUPD in 1993 where he served as both a Patrol Officer and Bike Officer. Reggie eventually left the dept. and went on to complete his career with the West Valley City Police Dept., serving in such roles as Patrol Officer, Traffic Investigator, School Resource Officer (SRO) and retired as Detective. Reggie returned to work with the UUPD in 2020, working in patrol and the depts. Peer Support Team. Reggie is currently the Sergeant in the Community Outreach Program (C.O.P) and U’s Athletic Liaison Officer.
Wil Mace
Research Manager, Dept. of Geology & Geophysics
Wil is a Research Manager in Geology and Geophysics with specialties in mass spectrometry and groundwater hydrology. He has done work in many areas around Utah, Yellowstone National Park, and Kenya, and he approaches Safety – particularly field safety – in a dynamic way; in that it is never done. There are always improvements that can be made, and every field session should be used as a learning experience for the next.
Pamela Manglona
Health Physicist, U of U Environmental Health & Safety
Pamela is a Health Physicist with the Radiation Safety Division of the Environmental Health and Safety (EHS) Department where she oversees the research use of ionizing and non-ionizing radiation-producing equipment, radiation security, and radioactive waste management program at the U. She also serves as the Assistant Laser Safety Officer for the laser safety program. Pamela has a B.S. Applied Physics from University of the Philippines and a M.S. Health Physics from Idaho State University.
Tom Marston
Supervisory Hydrologist, Studies Section at the United States Geological Survey
Tom has worked for the USGS for 15 years and has been responsible for a wide range of hydrologic studies in the state of Utah as well as the Intermountain West of the United States. Tom received both his Bachelor and Master of Science Degrees from the University of Utah in the College of Mines and Earth Sciences in 2007 and 2009. As part of his duties with the USGS, Tom served as the Utah Water Science Center Collateral Duty Safety Program Coordinator for 4 years. This position is responsible for maintaining and implementing the safety plan for the Science Center as well as performing annual safety audits for OSHA compliance.
Jim Muller
Executive Director of Facilities Management, College of Science
Jim helps oversee the facility-related operations of the Crocker Science Center. He works with building occupants, project managers, architects and contractors to facilitate renovation, infrastructure upgrades and new construction projects for the College of Science.
Alex Mumphrey
Lauren McCluskey Foundation volunteer
Steve Natrop
Hazardous Materials Manager, Environmental Health & Safety
Steve Natrop is the Hazardous Materials Manager for Environmental Health and Safety at the University of Utah.

Brandon Newell
Occupational Safety Manager, Environmental Health & Safety
Brandon first started working in the realm of safety in the Air Force, where he worked as a quality assurance inspector in the explosives safety field. After leaving the Air Force Brandon returned to finish his undergrad education at Weber State University, majoring in Microbiology. After graduating, he was hired by EHS at the University of Utah as a Lab Safety Inspector. He went on to hold several other positions on the EHS team including Safety Specialist before moving into his current Safety Manager position in which he oversees EHS’s team of safety specialists and works on various safety program and infrastructure issues.
Elaine Newton
Education Coordinator for Office of Equal Opportunity
Elaine joined the OEO in September 2022 from the world of non-profit. She has been an adult educator for 7 years and is committed to adult learning practices in all education settings. Elaine will be discussing the University’s non-discrimination policy and reviewing equity recommendations from higher edu research.
Emily O'Hagan
Deputy Regulated Waste Manager
Emily works alongside labs to manage unwanted materials from generation to pickup to final disposal. She can help with the SAM system, chemical storage, and shipping dangerous goods along with Steve Natrop. She studied chemistry at the U and is excited to help educate the community about chemical safety and what happens to chemicals once they leave the lab.
Ricardo Rodrigues
Occupational Safety Specialist, Environmental Health & Safety
Ricardo Rodrigues is an Occupational Safety Specialist for Environmental Health & Safety at the University of Utah.
Stormy Sideria
Emergency Management Specialist, U of U Dept. of Public Safety
Stormy joined the University of Utah Emergency Management team in February of 2020. During the University's response to COVID-19, Stormy has been an integral leader in emergency operations and planning. She served over seven years in the U.S. Army, specializing in recovery operations. Stormy carries five years of medical first response experience as an AEMT working for the Brigham City Fire Department. Before arriving at the U, Stormy worked private security for Westinghouse and Goldman Sachs. Stormy has a BA in Emergency and Disaster Management and a BS in Psychology.
Dan Smith
Police Officer III, University Police
As a police officer with 18 years of experience, Dan has served in several capacities from Patrol and Investigations Sergeant to School Resource Officer to Gang Detective and current head of a UVU post where he is the supervisor over Combative and Fitness. Here at the University of Utah, Dan works as FTO, COP officer and Head of Combatives.
Jen Stones
Associate Director, Occupational Health & Safety
Jen Stones is the Associate Director of Occupational Safety for the University of Utah Environmental Health & Safety. Jen has a wide breadth of knowledge in EHS programs including industrial hygiene, hazardous materials, regulatory auditing and health and safety training.
Agnes Szarzec-Larsen
Safety Generalist/ESH Coordinator, Argonne National Labs
Agnes Szarzec-Larsen is a Deployed Environment, Safety and Health Coordinator for the Material Science Division and the Quantum Foundry at Argonne National Laboratory. Her past work titles include Hazard Analyst with the Office of Emergency Management at Argonne National Laboratory, and as Senior Laboratory Specialist in the Department of Chemistry at the University of Utah. During her more than ten years of experience, Agnes developed valuable skills in implementation of work planning and control processes, including evaluation of work activities, identification of hazards, and controls to mitigate risks and exposures. She has extensive knowledge of laboratory and chemical safety with specific application of ESH requirements and standards. She graduated with a Bachelor of Science and a Master of Science, both in chemistry from the University of Utah.
Peter Trapa
Dean, College of Science
Peter E. Trapa is the Dean of the College of Science. He oversees all aspects of the college, and is responsible for the college’s student success initiatives, academic programming, research activity, faculty, and staff.

David Thomas
Director of Safety, College of Science
In partnership with EHS, David works with all members of the Colleges of Science and Mines and Earth Sciences community to address safety concerns, advance new safety initiatives and promote a culture of safety.

Lauren Weitzman
Special Assistant to AVP for Health and Wellness in Student Affairs
Lauren Weitzman currently serves as special assistant to the AVP for Health & Wellness in Student Affairs and is completing a phased retirement from the U at the end of June. She was formerly director of the University Counseling Center. Lauren received her B.S. degree in Psychology from the University of Utah and her PhD in Counseling Psychology from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. A licensed psychologist, Lauren brings her expertise in treating anxiety, depression, trauma, grief/loss, and work-life integration to her private practice.
Taylor Wilson
Emergency Management Specialist, U of U Dept. of Public Safety
Taylor joined the University of Utah Emergency Management team in November of 2021. Before coming to the U, Taylor worked as an Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management COVID-19 Intern in Killeen, Texas. He specialized in the response and mitigation of COVID-19 and Testing and Vaccine Clinics. Taylor has first-hand emergency response experience after responding to Hurricane Harvey, Winter Storm Uri, and the Bastrop Complex Level Fire. He holds a bachelor's degree in emergency services administration with an emphasis in emergency leadership.
Catie Yonto
Health and Kinesiology Graduate Assistant TA, PEAK Health & Fitness, OSHER Center for Integrative Health
Catie is currently in the Health Education Specialist and Wellness Coaching master's program at the University of Utah. Her main interest is chronic care and hopes to work in Cardiac Rehab upon completion. In the past 10 years, she has worked in nonprofits teaching environmental education at botanical gardens and nature centers. When Catie is not facilitating wellness coaching sessions, she is likely hiking or bird-watching with her dog and husband.

Healthy, Safe & Well

American heart month

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) commemorates American Heart Month each February to encourage a heart healthy lifestyle. This year, join the #OurHearts movement and prioritize self-care as an example to others. See below for suggestions on daily actions toward self-care:

  • Self-Care Sunday
    Find a moment of serenity every Sunday. Spend some quality time on yourself.
  • Mindful Monday
    Be mindful about your health and regularly monitor your blood pressure or blood sugar if needed. Keep an eye on your weight to make sure it stays within or moves toward a healthy range. Being aware of your health status is a key to making positive change.
  • Tasty Tuesday
    Choose how you want to approach eating healthier. Start small by pepping up your meals with a fresh herb or spice as a salt substitute. Get adventurous and prepare a simple, new, heart-healthy recipe. Or go big by trying a different way of eating, such as the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) eating plan, which is scientifically proven to lower blood pressure. DASH is flexible and balanced, and it includes plenty of fruits and vegetables, fish, poultry, lean meats, beans, nuts, whole grains, and low-fat dairy products.
  • Wellness Wednesday
    Don’t waffle on your wellness. Move more, eat a fruit or vegetable you’ve never tried, make a plan to quit smoking or vaping, or learn the signs of a heart attack or stroke. You could be having a heart attack if you have chest and upper body pain or discomfort, shortness of breath, cold sweats, nausea, or lightheadedness. You might be having a stroke if you have numbness in the face, arm, or leg; confusion; trouble talking or seeing; dizziness; or a severe headache.
  • Treat Yourself Thursday
    Treats can be healthy. Try making a dessert with fresh fruit and yogurt. Then stretch your imagination beyond food. Host a family dance party, take a few minutes to sit still and meditate, go for a long walk, or watch a funny show. Laughter is healthy. Whatever you do, find a way to spend some quality time on yourself.
  • Follow Friday
    Follow inspiring people and pages on social media, or text a friend to help you stick to your self-care goals. Remember to take care of your mental health, too. Two of the main hurdles to self-care are depression and a lack of confidence, according to a study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association. If your mental health gets between you and your fabulous self, take action to show your heart some love. Reach out to family and friends for support, or talk to a qualified mental health provider.
  • Selfie Saturday
    Inspire others to take care of their own hearts. Talk about your self-care routine with loved ones or share a selfie on your social media platforms. Having social support and personal networks can make it easier to get regular physical activity, eat nutritious foods, reach a healthy weight, and quit smoking.

feel better now

Feel Better Now is a four-week experiential workshop offered by the University Counseling Center’s Mindfulness Center that focuses on teaching students ways of understanding their emotions. It provides them with psycho-educational information, skill-building, group discussion, and experiential exercises to learn skills for emotional regulation and mindfulness, and to develop healthier, more effective ways of coping with stress and difficult emotions. This workshop is free to students, faculty and staff. For more information on this workshop and others offered this spring check the Mindfulness Center website.

A Catalyst for Safety

A Catalyst for Safety

In June 2019, a chemical spill in a Department of Chemistry laboratory led to a full department shutdown until a comprehensive safety assessment could be completed. Within days, most laboratories re-opened. Within weeks, the department had put into motion an unprecedented safety makeover in partnership with the Office of Environmental Health and Safety (EHS) and the College of Science. Since then, the college and EHS have enacted creative solutions to rebuild a culture of lab safety from the ground up—and it has paid dividends in implementing safeguards related to COVID-19.

Tommy Primo

“Everyone from the department level up to the President’s Office has made significant changes to how the U regulates laboratory safety,” said Peter Trapa, dean of the College of Science. “By the time COVID-19 hit, we had the right infrastructure, the right coordination between EHS and our own folks, so that we could quickly lead out in the COVID era.”

Committed committees

Matthew Sigman

At the time of the spill, the U’s laboratory safety culture had been through a series of internal and external audits, including one by the Utah State Legislature. The reports identified crucial gaps in safety and made recommendations for improvement. The U has made significant progress addressing these recommendations, including establishing and expanding the number and authority of college and departmental-level safety committees. Within the College of Science, the Departments of Chemistry, Mathematics, Physics & Astronomy and the School of Biological Sciences all have committees made up of staff and faculty who performed routine lab inspections and reported violations. The previous safety system’s structure allowed some violations to remain unresolved. Now, the committees are empowered to recommend how violations get addressed. They’ve also expanded their scope to include postdocs and graduate students who can make suggestions for outdated practices or areas that need attention. In the coming weeks, safety committees will be required in all University colleges.

“To change the safety culture, there has to be the motivation, and it has to be a grassroots effort,” said Matthew Sigman, Peter J. Christine S. Stang Presidential Endowed Chair of Chemistry. “This is a success because it’s collaborative, it’s conversational, and it’s pragmatic. It’s about building relationships and getting buy-in from the top down.”

Sarah Morris-Benavides

In January, EHS and the College of Science jointly hired Sarah Morris-Benavides as the first associate director of safety for the College. Morris-Benavides facilitates communication between researchers, and helps translate regulatory protocols between the college and EHS. She also heads the College of Science’s safety committee that is made up of the department committee chairs. She and the committees have worked closely to ensure that classes and research are conducted safely in light of the coronavirus restrictions.

“I can’t tell you how valuable they’ve been,” said Morris-Benavides of the response to COVID-19. “We had a great benefit that these committees were already established and in place.”

Every month, the college safety committee meets to discuss each department’s safety protocols. “We have the ability to say, ‘Well, here’s something that they’re doing in biology. Does that make sense for physics?” she said. “Chemistry learned a lot from their amazing safety turnaround, and they’ve shared their best practices. It all benefits every department.”

Precipitating solutions

Selma Kadic

The U overhauled the previous laboratory safety system by restructuring EHS directly under the Vice President for Research Office, and Frederick Monette became its new director. This helped rebuild trust between the EHS and researchers, who had historically been at odds.

“Fred Monette was all in right away. His willingness to sit down with people, listen to their concerns, and back it up financially meant a lot to the people in the department,” said Holly Sebahar, professor of chemistry who was the chair of the chemistry safety committee at the time of the shutdown.

Safety violations can be complicated; some are easy fixes, such as ensuring lab members wear proper PPE, but other issues are expensive, such as electrical or ventilation upgrades within older buildings. Traditionally, the burden of arranging infrastructure upgrades and their cost often fell solely on the principal investigator (PI) of the laboratory in question.

Angus Wu

To change that, EHS and the College of Science lobbied for an infrastructure improvement project to fund overdue, expensive safety upgrades in College of Science buildings, many of which were identified as deficiencies during the chemistry shutdown. The resulting $1 million capital improvement project will address electrical upgrades, seismic bracing, and ventilation improvements in several buildings, beginning in January 2021. Addressing these deficiencies in one comprehensive project will be much quicker, more economical, and result in less disruption to laboratory operations compared with the past approach of fixing each issues one by one at the request of individual laboratories.

Working with the College of Science, the VPR Office facilitated the purchase of 20 new refrigerator/freezers rated for storage of flammable chemicals to replace units that failed to meet regulatory requirements, sharing the cost 50/50 with the PIs. These initiatives demonstrated the administration’s commitment to promoting a culture of safety across the university.

From the ground up

As another example of a changed safety culture, the Department of Chemistry aims to incorporate safety in all aspects of academic life. Every speaker, seminar and many group meetings now incorporate a ‘safety moment,’ with each presenter asked to share an example of a safety incident and how they addressed it.

Shelley Minteer

“We have upwards of 30 or 40 external visitors a year. That’s a lot of safety moments. They’ll walk through that experience, then walk through the lab procedures to fix the problem,” Sigman said. “It’s a lessons learned, but also it’s an open conversation. We want to have the lowest risk, but we know when you sign up to be a chemist, you have the danger. Even when you cross the t’s, dot the i’s, something can happen.”

The collaborations go beyond the science—last year, EHS, the College of Science and the College of Mines and Earth Sciences co-hosted a two-day lab safety symposium with speakers and training sessions that addressed all types of issues, from chemical storage to creating effective safety committees. More than 400 staff, students and faculty attended the mandatory event to emphasize that every individual is responsible to making their environment safe. The U is applying that same philosophy for COVID-19.

“As we started going through the safety culture changes, we realized that it’s not that students or post docs or faculty won’t follow safety protocols, they will, if they know where they are, if they can find the paperwork,” said Shelley Minteer, associate chair for faculty for the Department of Chemistry and COVID-19 coordinator for the department. “We learned a lot from the safety ramp up. We need clear guidelines and good communication. We’ve been applying those same principles to COVID.”


by Lisa Potter - first published in @theU