Strong Safety Culture-Environmental Health & Safety - Carnegie Mellon University

Monday, May 6, 2013

Strong Safety Culture

ASC logoThe American Chemical Society recently published a report of their Safety Culture Task force, outlining the importance of establishing a good safety culture in laboratories as well as how to do this.  The report was prompted by the number of high-profile university-related lab accidents which have occurred in the US over the past few years.  A poor safety culture was implicated in a number of these accidents.

I would like, over the next few months, to present some of the information from this report, for you all to read and consider.  EH&S, with the support of University management, will be working on strengthening our safety culture here at Carnegie Mellon.

The Task Force defined a Safety Culture as “an organization’s collective commitment, by leaders and individuals, to emphasize safety as an overriding priority to competing goals and other considerations to ensure protection of people and the environment.”

They further identify nine traits of a good safety culture; I hope to look at each of these points over the next several months.

  1.   Leaders demonstrate a commitment to safety in their decisions and behaviors
  2.   Problem identification and resolution
  3.   All individuals take personal responsibility for safety
  4.   The process of planning and controlling work activities is implemented, so safety is maintained
  5.   Continuous Learning
  6.   Positive, non-punitive environment for raising safety concerns
  7.   Effective safety communication
  8.   Respectful work environment
  9.   Questioning attitude

Why are we dealing with safety culture?  Well there are a number of reasons:

  •    It offers a safer environment for all of our people
  •    It saves time and money, both of which are precious
  •    It is one of the jobs of our University to prepare its students for positions in the business world. 
When students leave their studies here with a strong safety culture and a strong safety ethic, they will find themselves more valuable to their employers.  After all, business and industry generally have a stronger emphasis on safety than do many universities.  They have found that it makes very good business sense.

By: Mark Banister, markb2, 412-268-5616