Re: Safety Peer Review
And What You Should Do
Everyone at Berkeley Lab is responsible for helping create and maintain a safe environment. This includes employees, guests, PIs, faculty, post-docs, students, and contractors.
Where we are now: In January 2006, in response to a number of near-misses and worrisome incidents, a safety peer review team was invited to the Lab, where they met with a wide variety of people from senior Lab leadership to students. The Peer Review identified a number of areas where we could improve to ensure the safety of each Lab employee and guest. Since then, Howard Hatayama, Acting Director of EH&S, his staff, and other Lab employees have been working on a Corrective Action Plan. We are now ready to jump-start the plan.
The Key Finding: The crucial weakness identified by the Peer Review was communication. One Lab employee had told the committee that while safety was a high priority at the Lab, it did not appear to be a deeply-held value. Supervisors and PIs were reportedly not as effective as they needed to be in communicating to staff that we all must “walk the walk,” not just “talk the talk.”
Supervisors and PI’s: What should I, as the PI or supervisor, now be doing? First, have you talked to each member of your staff, including post-docs, graduate students, and undergraduates, about your expectations from them regarding safety? Have you made your workplace an open environment where everyone feels free to raise safety concerns? Training is important—have you discussed with them their particular training needs and made sure they have received the proper training before starting work? Are you regularly looking around the laboratory and office space under your control and taking action to ensure a tidy and safe workplace?
Most importantly, have you thought about how to manage your project’s schedule so that your employees remain safe? One concern the Peer Review team heard was that employees sometimes hesitated to raise a safety concern because the work schedule might slip—that’s both wrong and ultimately self-defeating.
Individuals: What should I, as an individual, now be doing? The Lab’s Integrated Safety Management plan (ISM) lays it out: 1) Plan what you're going to do; 2) Determine the hazards and impacts; 3) Take precautionary measures; 4) Do the work within the precautions; and 5) Change the precautions or the work if needed to be safer.
Ask yourself: have I had the proper training to do the tasks assigned to me? Before I start, do I know what can go wrong? Do I know how to “stop work” if I see an unsafe condition? If you’re not sure of the answer to any of these questions, stop, contact your supervisor, and get help. Finally, are you looking out for the safety of others? In our collaborative work environment, you are only as safe as your teammates.