Roles & Responsibilities

To maintain a safe, healthy, and compliant laboratory setting requires the ongoing effort and commitment of everyone in the Chemical Engineering Department. Everyone has a role to play in safety, although the following roles have these specific responsibilities.

Department Chair

The Department Chair has overall responsibility for the effectiveness of the safety program within the Chemical Engineering Department and ‘sets the tone at the top’ to enable a strong safety culture to flourish in the laboratories. In addition, the Chair is responsible for,

  • Establishing a safety committee and appoints safety committee members,
  • Ensuring the development and implementation of safe practices, safety protocols, and safety rules for undergraduate and graduate laboratories and other affiliated shops,
  • Reinforcing safety responsibilities for faculty, staff, and students,
  • Ensuring faculty, staff, laboratory supervisors, and teaching assistants involved in teaching and overseeing laboratory operations have received an appropriate level of safety training,

Principal Investigators and Lab Directors

Principal Investigators are ultimately responsible for safety in their laboratory and are expected to lead by example. In addition, they need to,

  • Be familiar with UVA safety and health requirements that may impact their laboratory, including waste management practices, and ensure that activities in their lab follow them,
  • Ensure the EHS Hazard Communication Sign is posted on the lab entrance door / up to date,
  • Ensure that lab occupants have received specialized training on specific hazards and chemicals used in their laboratory such as biosafety, laser safety, and radiation safety,
  • Ensure new members of the laboratory, visitors, service providers receive safety orientation before working or visiting their laboratory,
  • Ensure appropriate PPE is provided and used properly,
  • Ensure monthly emergency eyewash station checks are conducted,
  • Investigate all incidents resulting in injury or property damage or near misses with such potential and report them to the Department Chair or the ChE Safety Committee,
  • Ensure that any deviations noted during lab inspection by EHS, by the Fire Marshal, and/or by the ChE Safety Committee are corrected in a timely manner,
  • Conduct or provide guidance for hazard assessments to identify hazardous conditions or operations in the lab and establish standard operating procedures and safe work practices to effectively control or reduce hazards. (See Section VIII / Appendix F for checklist)
  • As needed, review new materials, equipment, and instrumentation with EHS to ensure that they can be safely accommodated and determine if supplemental controls will be needed. 

Students, Post-docs, and Research Staff

Students in a UVA laboratory are responsible for their own safety and those around them. In addition, students are responsible for

  • Completing required safety training before beginning work in the lab,
  • Developing good personal safety habits such as keeping work areas clean and uncluttered,
  • Wearing appropriate clothing, and required PPE (refer to PPE section),
  • Utilizing appropriate measures to control hazards, such as Fume Hoods and procedures,
  • Asking for advice/ approval before undertaking new or unfamiliar procedures, using highly hazardous materials, or “scaling up” an experiment,
  • Stopping work if any unusual or unexpected conditions arise, or if unsure it’s safe to continue,
  • Removing damaged equipment from use, and report the problem,
  • Reporting accidents, over-exposures, symptoms of potential over-exposure, any unsafe conditions and near misses as soon as possible.

Teaching Assistants (TA’s)

Teaching assistants (TA’s) have responsibilities for operating and overseeing undergraduate students and laboratories and must serve as a “good role model” in demonstrating safe laboratory practices, including,

  • Knowing the location of the SDS information for their assigned laboratories,
  • Knowing the underlying chemistry for each experiment being taught,
  • Demonstrating proper laboratory techniques for each experiment to the students, and procedures for operation of common laboratory equipment, such as burners and hot plates,
  • Providing appropriate laboratory safety instruction to students, including explaining the health hazards and risks associated with each experiment,
  • Managing the setup and cleanup of laboratory experiments,
  • Enforcing appropriate safety and PPE protocols during laboratory preparation activities, such as making solutions and preparing samples,
  • Be familiar with University requirements during the generation/ disposal of hazardous waste,
  • Maintaining good housekeeping in assigned laboratories,
  • Addressing any observed safety concerns or expressed by a student including stopping work and correcting unsafe conditions or activities,
  • Reporting any injuries, incidents, spills or near misses that have the potential to cause harm or damage.

New Faculty

  • New UVA faculty who will work in a laboratory should contact EHS prior to or upon arrival for guidance and assistance on safety requirements and considerations for setting up the laboratory.
  • New faculty are encouraged to schedule an in-person on-boarding meeting with the UVA Chemical Safety Officer – contact EHS for more information.

ChE Safety Committee

Composed of faculty and students, the Safety Committee is responsible to,

  • Maintain the ChE Department Safety Manual ensuring that it is current and consistent with University policies,
  • Make an annual presentation to the department of the Department Safety Program,
  • Serve as a resource for members of the department and help enforce safety requirements, including initial safety orientation for new faculty members,
  • Work with the faculty, department chair and EH&S to ensure an effective program,
  • Support faculty in accident investigations and hazard reviews, as needed,
  • Review and report, as appropriate, incident and injury reports,
  • Conduct periodic laboratory inspections, report to the ChE Department community on the outcome of the lab inspections and conduct follow-on inspection to verify that safety violations have been addressed.

Safety Officers (voluntary)

Some Principal Investigators may find value in having additional support in the role of ‘safety officer’ The responsibilities of the safety officer are outlined below. The safety officer is a member of the lab designated by the PI/Lab Supervisor to

  • Assist with managing daily operations of the lab’s safety program including compliance and the authority to instruct other lab employees in following all safety procedures.
  • Act as a liaison between lab groups and department safety committee,
  • Act as a point of contact for group member questions,
  • Ensure safety concerns are addressed in collaboration with the advisor, Safety Committee and/or EHS.

* This safety manual was adopted and modified from Michigan Tech University, AICHE, ACS, and from UVA’s Chemical Hygiene Plan

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