Executive Support

Executive Support

TO: Deans, Directors and Department Chairs
FROM: Jane Knodell Interim Senior Vice President and Provost
SUBJ: Campus-Wide Research Laboratory Environmental Safety Review

As one of the nation's premier small public research universities, the University of Vermont has always strived to support and encourage a culture of safety and use of best- practices in research laboratory protocols and procedures. However, recent nation-wide research laboratory accidents, including fatalities, have prompted an immediate review of our current standards and practices.

To that end, I'm writing to let you know that the Office of the Vice President for Research and the Office of Capital Planning and Management, in collaboration with the Department of Risk Management and the Environmental Safety Facility, is undertaking a campus-wide environmental safety review of all research laboratories (including common or shared research areas) to enhance the successful program established by Risk Management over the last decade.

This review will start with a study of the information that is gathered currently by the Environmental Safety Facility through their laboratory audit process. From their data, it is clear that generally, best-practices and devotion to lab safety is a core value to principle investigators, department chairs, and deans across campus, and those efforts will be supported and celebrated. However, if the survey and subsequent site visits uncover instances of research laboratories that do not meet University, State, or Federal policies, standards/codes, or laws, you will be contacted by the Environmental Safety Facility. Actions relating to labs with serious safety hazards will need to take place swiftly. Repercussions could include warnings, external fines, or closure of the laboratory until the issues are resolved. Funding for required improvements (and any external fines) will be the responsibility of the academic unit.

The safety and well-being of our students, staff, faculty, and visitors is our primary concern. As an academic unit head, you are responsible for the safety of any individuals in your facilities, so please take advantage of this memorandum and be proactive about reviewing the research laboratories in your purview. I urge you to express appreciation to the individuals who are using best-practices, and to demand immediate improvement from those that are not. Thank you in advance for your consideration and efforts in this high-priority safety initiative. To learn more about lab safety and best-practices, or for a free lab safety consultation, contact the Environmental Safety Facility staff at safety@uvm.edu .