Safety Survey Reveals False Sense of Security

January 28, 2013 - A recent survey suggests that laboratory workers may not be as safe as they feel, Nature reported. The results are from the first international survey of researchers’ workplace attitudes and practices.

About 86 percent of the 2,400 scientists who responded said they believe their labs are safe places to work. But just under half had experienced injuries ranging from animal bites to chemical inhalation. Large fractions noted frequently working alone and experiencing unreported injuries, Nature reported.

The survey revealed that the most common injuries were cuts, lacerations and needle pricks – but that 30 percent of respondents said they had witnessed at least one “major” lab injury that required professional medical attention. More than 25 percent of junior researchers said that they had experienced an injury they had not reported to their supervisor.

Only 60 percent of respondents said they had received safety training on specific hazards or agents they had worked with, and around half agreed that lab safety could be improved. In addition, about two-thirds of researchers said that people worked alone in their labs at least several times a week, compounding the risk should an accident occur.

The UCLA Center for Laboratory Safety, a research initiative set up in March 2011, commissioned the study as part of an effort to examine safety culture after the death of a 23-year-old research assistant in a UCLA lab fire four years ago.

The study “is the most comprehensive attempt at gathering data on attitudes to safety that I’ve seen – and one more piece of information in a growing body of reports that point to the need to improve the culture around safety in our academic laboratories,” said Dorothy Zolandz, director of the US National Academies Board on Chemical Sciences and Technology.

Carnow Conibear and Associates is a demonstrated leader in the occupational and environmental health professions since 1975. To find out more, click here or call us at (800) 860-4486.