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Stanford seeking insights from faculty-PIs and research staff on lab safety culture

Continuing its quest for data, perspectives and recommendations, a university task force devoted to advancing a positive culture of lab safety at Stanford has developed an anonymous online survey to elicit information from faculty and research staff on campus.

Stanford is requesting that faculty-principal investigators with research labs – and members of their research staffs – take part in the Stanford Laboratory Safety Culture Survey, a short online questionnaire asking them to share their opinions on the status of the lab safety culture on campus.

The anonymous survey is accessible through an email sent earlier this week to about 670 faculty-principal investigators by the Task Force for Advancing the Culture of Safety at Stanford. The email contains a link to the survey, which takes 10-12 minutes to complete. The email also was sent to more than 3,000 bench researchers, including research associates, research assistants, postdoctoral fellows and graduate students.

In recent months, most of the information the task force has gathered – through eight town hall meetings and responses to a Community Comment questionnaire on its website – has come primarily from researchers who work daily at the laboratory bench.

But the task force wants and needs more feedback and input from faculty-principal investigators, whose perspectives are critical to the group's review and evaluation process, said PJ Utz, a Stanford professor of medicine and a co-chair of the task force.

The task force is hoping for a high response rate to assure that a level of statistical significance can be assigned to the data outcomes. The deadline is Wednesday, March 5.

"I often hear faculty, students and postdoctoral fellows complaining about time-consuming, online training that appears to be more about compliance than learning, whether the training is about safety, ethics, federal health privacy regulations, or CITI (the Collaborative Institutional Training Initiative)," Utz said.

"This survey is an opportunity for scientists to express their views on the current safety culture, and to help to develop methods that make training efficient and effective. We hope to establish a culture that builds safety into everyday practices."

In addition to giving respondents an opportunity to express their views about training, the survey asks them to rate their level of agreement/disagreement with how well positive and strong lab safety culture attributes are implemented within their laboratories. Some examples of those statements are:

  • "My lab has a clearly defined process for teaching new researchers the safety procedures."
  • "When individuals in my group start a new research procedure we discuss the risks and safety implications."
  • "If someone asks me to perform a task for which I don't know the proper safety procedure, I feel comfortable asking for help."

The survey results will add to the information the task force has already collected and will provide additional data for evaluating the overall perception of safety culture in research laboratories at Stanford – a core objective of the task force.

The task force continues to accept comments and recommendations for advancing the lab safety culture on the community comment page of its website.

The 12-member task force, which was convened last October, includes representatives from a broad spectrum of Stanford's laboratory academic leadership and the laboratory research community. Its membership includes faculty, health and safety staff, a life sciences research assistant, a postdoctoral research fellow at Stanford Medical School and a graduate student in the Chemistry Department.