An advisory committee chaired by and supporting the Office of Research Safety, SAFELab is a management tool to engage and recommend improvements to the University of Chicago’s research safety program and to identify corrective measures needed to eliminate or control recognized safety and health hazards in the laboratories.
The committee is a collaboration of representatives from all divisions that have an interest in research or teaching laboratories. This includes the Biological Sciences, Physical Sciences, Social Sciences, and Environmental Health and Safety departments at UChicago and UChicago Medicine, as well as building managers, Risk Management, Sustainability, Human Resources, lab safety contacts, and graduate students. Safety is a fundamental part of the University’s mission. Research and safety should not be seen as separate endeavors but rather integrated aspects of a responsible research culture. SAFELab’s goal is an open forum for all to voice opinions, concerns, ideas, updates, and to discuss ways to minimize the risk to all individuals working with or around hazardous substances as well as to the surrounding environment.
History of SAFELab
In response to a 2011 external audit of University of Chicago laboratory safety programs, the provost appointed a Laboratory Safety Committee (Provost’s Laboratory Safety Committee). The deputy provost for research, who also held an appointment as a professor of medicine and pediatrics, chaired this committee. Included among its membership were two additional faculty members and several key university administrators, including the director of Environmental Health and Safety. A working group called the Provost’s Laboratory Safety Committee Working Group (PLSCWG) was established to support the Laboratory Safety Committee. The PLSCWG membership included the University biosafety officer, several staff members of Environmental Health and Safety, and several senior laboratory workers.
In 2014, President Zimmer established the Office of Research Safety and the PLSCWG membership was expanded to include graduate students, research facilities managers, representatives of University safety committees, including the Institutional Biosafety Committee and the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee and members of the radiation safety team. The PLSCWG was renamed the Safety Advisory Forum for Experimental Laboratories (SAFELab) at this time.
Attendees include representatives from the following typical department roster:
- Office of Research Safety
- Biological Sciences Division
- Physical Sciences Division
- Pritzker School of Molecular Engineering
- Institute for Mind and Biology, Social Sciences Division
- University of Chicago Medical Center (Facilities Planning, Design and Construction, Safety and Environmental Compliance)
- Environmental Health and Safety
- Marine Biological Laboratory
- Animal Resources Center
- Organismal Biology and Anatomy
- Building Management, Biological Sciences Division