Safety Committee Report, Spring 2019

Some positive safety news… for a change

Most often, when safety shows up in our news feeds, we find a story about an experiment, demonstration, or industrial process gone awry, with injuries to individuals or damage to property or the environment. As chemists, we often feel pain not only on behalf of those harmed, but also for our chosen profession, which seems dangerous and uncontrollable, and our educational institutions, which are sometimes charged with preparing practitioners insufficiently.

Despite that beginnning, I have some good news to share.

While safety has always been a key issue for chemists, safety has been part of the American Chemical Society’s Core Value of Professionalism, Safety, and Ethics(1) since December 2016. Many individuals and groups have worked hard to develop what this means to the society. We have seen signficant changes in many areas in the recent past — to name just a few, safety expectations for journal articles, the spread of safety moments, and the development of risk and hazard assessments as a more routine part of laboratory work. Here are a few more recent and upcoming items for your attention.

Some members of the CHED Safety Committee updated the Safety Guidelines for Chemical Demonstrations. The article discussing these updated Guidelines appeared in the Journal of Chemical Education (web date, January 2018); as an Editor’s Choice, it is freely available(2). You could also stop by the ACS booth if you will be at the National Meeting in Orlando to pick up a copy of the Guidelines or discuss them with folks.

The ACS Exams Institute has an updated Chemical Health and Safety exam currently in development. This exam, focused on safety topics typically addressed in the first two years of a chemistry curriculum, is currently in pilot testing and should be available by the end of this calendar year. Consider participating in the pilot testing or implementing the exam at your institution after it is issued — contribute to our understanding of the current state of safety knowledge among our undergraduates nationally, while also getting a sense of how well your students are learning safety topics.

In Spring 2018, ACS President Peter Dorhout convened a Safety Summit; several venues reported on results from that Summit, including in C&EN. One of the projects springing from that summit was a Safety Education Summit, convened by President Bonnie Charpentier, which was held in March 1-2, 2019. Thirty folks from a range of stakeholder groups met to come up with some initiatives that aligned with the ACS strategic plan and could help move safety education forward. Participating in the summit was an invigorating experience for many members of the CHED Safety Committee. Educators from all types of institutions, industry and EH&S representatives, and folks from all parts of ACS including divisions, governance, and staff, shared perspectives and ideas to propose key issues to advance. Watch for reports and more from that summit, including (just to give a couple venues) information in C&EN and symposia sessions in San Diego.

Implementing safety as a core value throughout the educational system — from K-12, through associates, bachelors, masters, and doctoral degrees, and in continuing education for all types of chemists and those who use chemistry, regardless of employment sector — will happen most effectively if we have input from many of the members of the Division of Chemical Education. Some of you may be contacted by people seeking your expertise and input as projects move forward; I hope you will agree to participate. Some of you may see calls for participation, such as will occur for the special JCE safety issue in early 2020, and find that they align with your endeavors. If you have an interest in safety education and would like to become more proactively involved, I am confident that members of the CHED Safety Committee or others within the ACS would be willing to help you get connected. However, please feel free to contact me and I will try to connect you with appropriate folks and projects.

 

References

  1. ACS Strategic Plan, available at https://www.acs.org/content/dam/acsorg/about/strategicplan/acs-strategic-plan-2019.pdf, accessed 15 March 2019.
  1. Irene G. Cesa, David C. Finster, Samuella B. Sigmann, and Monique R. Wilhelm, “Revising the Division of Chemical Education Safety Guidelines for Chemical Demonstrations” Journal of Chemical Education, 2018, Vol. 95: , Issue. 4, : Pages. 502-503. https://doi.org/10.1021/acs.jchemed.7b00802

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