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TCE Safety Collage

Safety Culture

The Tickle College of Engineering promotes a strong Safety CULTURE.

C Cutting Edge Safety
Cutting edge engineering requires cutting edge safety.
U Unity of Effort
Every instructional or research laboratory has safe operations as a result of a unified effort within the community to appreciate and practice safety culture.
L Leadership
Leaders will encourage participation by all to achieve and improve laboratory safety.
T Transparency
A transparent environment is encouraged; learning from successes, near-misses and incidents never stops.
U Understanding
A shared understanding of strong safety culture exists between our corporate partners and the employers of our students.
R Respect
Students, staff, and faculty members will all articulate safety concerns because they are all respected and trusted.
E Everybody, Every Task, Every Time
Everyone is responsible for ensuring safe operations for every task, every time.

Thank you for participating via your work and collaboration with others to maintain and strengthen the college’s safety culture. Your efforts will serve you well, protect others, serve as an example, and prepare you for the expectations of professional life as an engineer, instructor, researcher or other professional. We are all essential persons in the continuous process to sustain a safe laboratory working environment. Again, thank you all very much for your support and efforts.

To assist the development and maintenance of Laboratory Safety CULTURE for our research and instructional laboratories, maker spaces and workshops, look below for an overview of the responsibilities for TCE personnel working in laboratories as a function of your role.

Each department has a designated Laboratory Safety Advocate. This person is a safety advocate who helps address your questions or directs you toward the appropriate resource. Contact information for your Laboratory Safety Advocate can be found at the bottom of this page.

As the leader of an instructional laboratory, you supervise and manage a laboratory space with large groups of students and are responsible for the experimental activity taking place. Thus, you are responsible for ensuring that the environment is safe and that the students and other instructors are following safe practices. The space may also be used for research activities, but those activities will fall under the responsibility of the Research Leader. The following training requirements are to be completed by you. It is then your responsibility to share this knowledge with your students:

  • Training
    You are ultimately responsible for ensuring that safety and safe behaviors are a constant in your labs. Highlighting potential safety concerns and mitigations is most likely a key element in your teaching plan. This type of safety training is important, but you may find a more formal training program beneficial for student learning. Consider requiring your students to complete the applicable EH&S training modules prior to beginning work in the lab.
  • Standard Operating Procedures & Chemical Hygiene Plans
    It is your responsibility to ensure that standard operating procedures (SOPs) and chemical hygiene plans (CHPs) specific to all instructional procedures are in place and that all persons in the lab are familiar with these documents. The documents should be presented or referenced in the instructional lab manual for each course, as applicable.
    • For more on information on writing SOPs and CHPs, click on the tab below
  • Accidents, Incidents and Near Misses
    Lab leaders should lead the response to these situations if they occur. A key responsibility is ensuring the safety and well-being of the students in the laboratory. Post-event, you should participate in the review, analysis, and development of lessons learned to improve laboratory safety.
  • Chemical Inventory
    BioRAFT is the system currently in use at the University of Tennessee for chemical inventory management and lab hazard profiles. It is your responsibility to ensure that the BioRAFT page for your lab spaces is accurate and up-to-date.

Additional Useful Links

As leader of a research lab, you play a critical role in ensuring that safety and safe behaviors are a constant presence in the laboratory research of your group. Ideally, you serve as a role model for all of the persons in your research group in terms of safe practices for lab-based research. You are ultimately responsible for the health and safety of everyone who enters your lab(s). To this end:

  • Training
    You are responsible for ensuring that everyone in your labs has received the training that they need to work safely. The specific training required will vary from lab to lab, but will be a combination of:
    • General training—Environmental Health & Safety training
    • Lab-specific training—develop a comprehensive lab-specific training program, in which the specific hazards in your lab(s) are identified as a function of standard operating procedures (SOPs), lab equipment and lab materials. These specific matters will be discussed with new researchers in your group along with appropriate training before they can start work, ensuring that everyone understands that they are entering an environment that requires special precautions. This training for each individual should be documented and available upon request.
  • Standard Operating Procedures and Chemical Hygiene Plans
    You are responsible for ensuring that standard operating procedures (SOPs) and chemical hygiene plans (CHPs) specific to all procedures are in place, and that all persons in the lab are familiar with these documents. The documents should be thoughtfully prepared and available upon request.
    • For more on information on writing SOPs and CHPs, click on the tab below
  • Accidents, Incidents and Near Misses
    Lab leaders should lead the response to these situations if present, respond appropriately when contacted if not present, and provide assistance post-event, including analysis, and development of lessons learned to improve laboratory safety.
  • Chemical InventoryBioRAFT is the system currently in use at the University of Tennessee for chemical inventory management and lab hazard profiles. It is your responsibility to ensure that the BioRAFT page for your lab spaces is accurate and up-to-date.
  • Accountability System—As a Research Lab Leader, you are ultimately responsible for ensuring that any member of your research team either works with someone else present or has a partner they check in with regularly. You may be that contact or a senior lab member (e.g. research faculty or postdoc), friend, etc. Regardless, anyone working alone must regularly contact a buddy. NOTE: Permitting undergraduates to work alone can pose additional risks to work quality and safety, and is not encouraged. As such these situations should be addressed on a case-by-case basis.

Additional Useful Links

Postdoctoral researchers, research staff, and research faculty engage in a wide range of leadership and individual research activities in labs. From daily work in the lab to leading undergraduate and graduate student research, these members of the College play a pivotal role in building and maintaining safety culture. Frequently, members of this group have come to TCE from other institutions, providing the opportunity for new ideas and best practices to be introduced—please share those experiences with your group! Below are several of the key responsibilities that apply to research faculty and staff, along with brief explanations of those responsibilities and links to EH&S resources that will aid you. Note that some may be covered by the Leader of the Research Lab while others may be delegated to other lab members:

  • Training
    Help identify training requirements in the lab. Training is ultimately the responsibility of the Research Lab Leader, but your proximity to the work may be helpful in enhancing and ensuring the freshness of training. Review the Environmental Health & Safety training requirements.
  • Standard Operating Procedures and Chemical Hygiene Plans
    Prior to engaging in any hazardous work, you should read and understand the Chemical Hygiene Plan (CHP) for your lab, including all standard operating procedures (SOPs). This may be stored digitally or physically in your group’s space. If you have joined your group from another institution, this is a great opportunity to find potential improvements to the group’s safe pursuit of research.
  • Accidents, Incidents, and Near Misses
    Respond to occurrence of these events and if the senior person present, lead the response. Provide assistance post-event, including analysis, and development of lessons learned to improve laboratory safety.
  • Chemical Inventory
    As a senior member of the research group, you may be designated as the BioRAFT liaison. This utility serves as the group’s chemical inventory and lab hazard profile. Please contribute to ensuring that this information is up-to-date and accurate.
  • Accountability System
    You may frequently be the “buddy” to someone working alone in the lab. As a senior member of the group, pay special attention to whether students are working alone and help ensure that they have a buddy (physically or digitally) checking on them regularly. Of course, you should also have regular check-ins with a buddy whenever you are working alone.

Additional Useful Links

As a GRA/GTA you are typically in the laboratory on a daily basis and are very often the main day-to-day participant in the research work of the lab. Thus, you are in many ways most responsible for ensuring that the work environment is safe. A key part of this effort is to discuss safety matters with your lab research leader and other members of the research group to develop the needed understanding of standard laboratory operating procedures (SOPs), lab equipment, and potentially hazardous laboratory materials. On that basis, an appropriate array of training requirements should be completed by you to ensure that you are ready to do your work safely in the laboratory setting:

  • Training
    Help identify training requirements in the lab. Training is ultimately the responsibility of the Research Lab Leader, but your proximity to the work may be helpful in enhancing and ensuring the freshness of training. Review the Environmental Health & Safety training requirement.
  • Standard Operating Procedures and Chemical Hygiene Plans
    Prior to engaging in any hazardous work, you should read and understand the Chemical Hygiene Plan (CHP) for your lab, including all standard operating procedures (SOPs). This may be stored digitally or physically in your group’s space.
  • Accidents, Incidents, and Near Misses
    Respond to occurrence of these events and if the senior person present, lead the response. Provide assistance post-event, including analysis, and development of lessons learned to improve laboratory safety.
  • Accountability System
    Creating new knowledge is an exciting and demanding pursuit. This may necessitate you working alone at times; if you are working alone (on-campus, in the field, at a UTK facility, etc), you must have a buddy that you check in with regularly. This may be another lab member, your advisor, a friend, partner, or someone else. You should regularly (e.g. hourly) check in with this person or they should check on you to ensure your safety.

Additional Useful Links

Performing research as an undergraduate can be both an exciting and rewarding experiential learning endeavor, but it is imperative to first learn how to conduct work safely and carefully.

  • Review work expectations carefully with your immediate supervisor – graduate student, post-doc or faculty sponsor – before engaging in research activities.
  • Always follow standard operating procedure (SOP) when performing any lab duty.
  • Never improvise when it comes to unfamiliar chemicals, equipment, or tools. Doing so can endanger yourself and others in the lab or cause damage to costly equipment.
  • When performing a SOP for the 1st time, ask a senior graduate student or post-doc to supervise you. This will ensure you learn to complete this important safety responsibility properly and safely.
  • Watch, listen and learn from senior lab personnel. Consider yourself an apprentice – it is critical that knowledge is transferred from senior to junior lab personnel to ensure that good lab practice and safety culture is continued.
  • As you learn and grow in the lab, if you see opportunities to improve lab practice, please share it! You can improve your own experience as well as those of your group if you do.
  • As an undergraduate on a research team, it is strongly recommended that you always work under the direct supervision of a qualified graduate student or lab leader. Working alone poses significant risks and is strongly discouraged.
  • Review the campus Chemical Hygiene Plan
    • Note: your lab will have its own CHP that you should also be familiar with
  • Common Lab Safety Resources
  • Working Alone in Research

For Students

See Undergraduates in Research Labs

For Leaders of Research Labs

The University regulates policies involving minors in research labs. The excerpts below were taken from applicable University policies and are provided for informational purposes only. It is your responsibility to review the source documents and ensure compliance with the most up to date University regulations.

System Wide Policy SA0550—Minors in Laboratories and Shops

This policy applies to minors who are not enrolled as a University student and are on campus attending Governor’s School, STEM Academy, classes, camps or are otherwise present in laboratories, shops, or other areas that contain hazardous substances or physical hazards. This policy does not contemplate or authorize a minor who is not enrolled in the University as a student to be hired as a University employee. Approval of the appropriate department head is required to hire a non-University student under the age of eighteen (18) as a University employee.

Applicable Links

System Wide Policy SA0575—Programs for Minors

Minors visit campuses and institutes of The University of Tennessee System for a variety of reasons and are involved in a variety of programs and activities sponsored by the University or by third parties using University facilities or resources. The aim of this policy is to promote a safe environment for minors by fostering a University culture that is committed to preventing, recognizing, reporting, and addressing child abuse and child sexual abuse.

Applicable Links

Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) and Chemical Hygiene Plans (CHPs) serve as the touchstone for all laboratory operations. These documents provide detailed guidance for specific procedures and materials and form the basis for the training plans for each lab member. They should be written with great care and attention to detail, ideally involving discussion and development by several lab group members. Laboratory personnel must have a thorough working knowledge of all SOPs and CHP prior to beginning work. Each department may have specific requirements for SOP/CHP formatting, but the following links provide useful guidance:

SOP Preparation Resources

CHP Preparation Resources

A Laboratory Safety Advocate serves as a resource and a liaison between researchers and the Environmental Health and Safety office. They are available to answer your questions or direct you to the appropriate resources.

Department Laboratory Safety Advocate
Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering Paul Dalhaimer
Civil and Environmental Engineering Sarah Mobley
CURENT Bob Martin
Electrical Engineering and Computer Science Andre Zeumault
Industrial and Systems Engineering John Kobza
Material Science and Engineering Gerald Egeland
Mechanical, Aerospace, and Biomedical Engineering Doug Aaron
Nuclear Engineering Scott Emert
SMRC Merry Koschan
College Safety Advocate William Dunne, Associate Dean for Research and Facilities

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