Universities nationwide have reflected on several tragic accidents that have taken place in recent years, including the death of a laboratory research assistant in a flash fire at UCLA and an explosion in a lab that severely injured a graduate student at Texas Tech University. In response, the Association of Public & Land-grant Universities and the Association of American Universities have called on institutions of higher education across the country to embrace a renewed commitment to improving the culture of safety for all academic research, scholarship and teaching.
Here at UCI, we have a longstanding tradition of excellence in our approach to safety. Several of our safety programs have won national awards, and we are considered a leader in UC injury prevention. Our campuswide approach is further reinforced by the APLU’s publication of A Guide to Implementing a Safety Culture in Our Universities, which includes a suggested set of core institutional values, several of which have long been part of UCI’s culture:
Safety is everyone’s responsibility.
Good science is safe science.
Safety training and safety education are essential elements of research and teaching.
Safety experts know that there are few “freak accidents.” Most workplace accidents are preceded by a number of near misses and precursor events, often unrecognized as such. In a safety-conscious environment, employees feel empowered to stop work processes that are unsafe and to immediately bring workplace risks to their supervisor’s attention. In such an environment, everyone understands the importance of discussing workplace risks while planning jobs or activities and taking steps to mitigate those risks. This includes completing and documenting safety training.
UCI’s Environmental Health & Safety department provides the framework and tools for campus faculty, staff and students to achieve their goals in a safe and responsible manner. Safety basics are available at www.ehs.uci.edu, as are custom tools developed for specific work environments. View the Safety on Site (SOS) Program to get started on integrating safety into your work environment.
Thank you for doing your part to make UCI safe for the entire campus community.
Enrique J. Lavernia, Ph.D.
Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor
Department of Materials Science and Engineering