"PIs are the single most important element for developing and sustaining a strong, proactive laboratory safety culture and must clearly communicate and reinforce to everyone within their groups that safety within their research laboratory is a top priority and define roles, responsibilities, authority and accountability for safety within their laboratory."

- Stanford University Advancing Safety Culture in the University Laboratory


Laboratory Supervisors and Lab Safety Officers play a critical role in creating and maintaining a safety culture at UVM while ensuring their activities remain in compliance with all federal, state and local regulations.

Laboratory Supervisor Responsibilities

Laboratory Supervisor responsibilities include implementing & following UVM's Lab Safety Program which ensures compliance with OSHA's requirements for a Chemical Hygiene Plan and EPA's requirements for a Laboratory Environmental Management Plan. Laboratory Supervisors are the Chemical Hygiene Officers (CHO) for their laboratories for purposes of complying with OSHA's Standard for Occupational Exposure to Hazardous Chemicals in Laboratories (1910.1450).

Lab Supervisors/CHOs:

  • Identify and assess the hazards associated with the lab work;
  • Specify and document the controls to mitigate those hazards;
  • Inform all lab personnel of hazards;
  • Motivate others to utilize those controls to ensure a safe work environment for everyone within their area; and
  • Conduct inspections for safety and compliance with UVM policies/programs and lab-specific protocols.

The online lab safety training, entitled Laboratory Roles & Responsibilities, specifically addresses the roles and responsibilities of UVM Laboratory Supervisors. All Supervisors are required to complete this training in addition to the safety trainings shown on the Train and Inform Personnel page. While some safety tasks can be delegated to a Laboratory Safety Officer, the Laboratory Supervisor bears the responsibility for carrying out those tasks and ensuring safe laboratory conditions. UVM Risk Management & Safety is available to consult and& provide tools or resources to support safe laboratory work.

Lab Safety Officer (LSO)

A Laboratory Supervisor may designate a Lab Safety Officer (LSO) and delegate authority to that person.  The lab safety officer is a part of the lab's quality team. Their role is to improve the lab's safety culture using education, training and coaching, and to complete routine tasks that help ensure safety and compliance. They liaise with Risk Management & Safety and coordinate annual refresher trainings as needed, orient new lab staff as they begin working and complete the required monthly self-inspections of the lab area(s). This allows the Supervisor to support the development of technical and leadership skills within the LSO and to maintain the high values of safety and excellence within the lab group.

Specific duties of the LSO may include the following:

  • Ensuring all lab staff receive training in general lab safety and safe procedures for the hazards specific to their laboratory when they begin work
  • Continuing staff education as procedures change and behavior dictates: regular awareness improves the level of safety culture
  • Reporting of employee injuries, exposures, and near-misses and following up with occurrences, looking at trends and making engineering or work practice control changes if necessary
  • Requesting exposure monitoring for those who work with specific hazardous materials of concern
  • Ensuring completion of the monthly lab safety inspection
  • Ensuring that  everyone in the lab is prepared to act in an emergency (spill response, evacuation, etc.)

Often, these safety responsibilities are in addition to their normal bench duties.  LSO's assist in following up with audit deficiencies, incident follow-up and by acting as safety role models for other lab staff. Large labs might even designate a safety representative for each shift.

Visiting Researchers and Students

UVM often hosts visiting researchers and students within our labs, especially during the summertime months.  There are a few actions required of lab supervisors to accommodate this:

  • MOU:  All personnel working within UVM’s labs must be affiliated with UVM, either as employees, students enrolled in a class and/or degree program, or through a “Memorandum of Understanding.”  See Resources, Policies and Forms for the “Visiting Worker MOU” (bottom of page under Forms/Guidelines).
  • Minors:  If the researcher is less than 18 years of age, then UVM’s policy for “Minors in Laboratories” applies.  A link to this policy, as well as the “Minors in Labs Permission Form” are also on Resources, Policies and Forms.
  • Training:  UVM’s compliance with OSHA and EPA regulations is detailed within our Laboratory Safety Program and related trainings, even visiting lab workers must complete the trainings detailed in Training section of this program.
  • Protocols:  Protocols approved through the RSC, IBC, IACUC and IRB do not automatically include changes in research personnel or in research spaces.  Lab Supervisors and visiting researchers may have protocols that need to be updated and reviewed to accommodate these changes.

Laboratory Audits

Laboratory safety audits are conducted by the Risk Management & Safety staff on a routine basis.