In an e-mail distributed to the University community on Monday, University President Mark Schlissel announced a number of measures to enhance the culture of safety in the University’s research community.
The letter was co-signed by University Provost Martha Pollack; Kevin Hegarty, executive vice president and chief financial officer; Marschall Runge, executive vice president for medical affairs and S. Jack Hu, interim vice president for research.
The new measures include establishing an oversight committee on research safety, additional communication around safety procedures and a survey to assess researcher’s awareness of them.
In the message, Schlissel said the decision to introduce these measures follows nationwide concerns about laboratory safety procedures.
“Several independent groups, including the American Chemical Society and most recently the National Research Council, have issued reports on the culture of safety in research institutions across the country,” he wrote. “Here at U-M, we have reviewed laboratory safety practices in research units across our campus and identified a number of enhancements that can be made to ensure research safety.”
These measures will be implemented with the help of the University’s Department of Occupational Safety and Environmental Health and the University’s Office of Research.
“The ultimate goal, as always, is to enhance our ability to do quality research as safely as possible, and to remain a leader in safe research operations,” he wrote.
University spokesman Rick Fitzgerald said the additional safety measures did not result from any problems identified in the University’s research facilities, but rather as part of an effort to maintain the University’s high safety standards.
“This is a preemptive move, if you will, to redouble our efforts,” Fitzgerald said. “As the research community has grown, we just really felt it was time to redouble our efforts and make sure we had the safest possible environment for our research community.”
Terry Alexander, executive director of the OSEH, said the oversight committee will be headed by LSA Associate Dean Myron Campbell and consist of roughly 15 members, including undergraduate and graduate students.
Alexander said the ultimate goal is to encourage researchers who work in labs to think about the safety measures, training and equipment they need to ensure every task is done safely and everyone leaves the lab healthy.
“We are doing cutting edge research that’s making the world a better place,” Alexander said. “We want to make sure that our people are not impacted by that research.”
Alexander said the survey is currently being written in collaboration with the Office of Research.