Committee on Chemical Safety

The Committee on Chemical Safety (CCS) promotes and facilitates safe practices in chemical activities. We provide advice and counsel to ensure safety by calling attention to potential hazards and stimulating education in safe chemical practices. CCS also serves as a resource to other ACS units on matters related to chemical safety and health.

Here you will find publications, tips, and other information to improve safety in schools, the workplace, and beyond.

Elizabeth M. Howson, Chair

News & Announcements

The Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU) released its report, A Guide to Implementing Safety Culture in Our Universities, which includes references to three  ACS reports and presentations from a technical session. The guide is intended for university presidents and chancellors who have made a renewed commitment to improve their institutional culture of safety, as well as for the campus leadership team that the university president appoints to helm this effort.  Academic institutions are encouraged to use the guide in ways that fit their unique institutional contexts. The guide includes a number of resources (the “toolbox”) which will continue to evolve. The academic lab safety community is invited to contribute to this evolving  document  by nominating lab safety resources that should be brought to the attention of the APLU and its members. Members of the lab safety community can contribute through a three-question survey at: (go to “Get Involved: Add Resources and Tools” at the bottom of the page).The ACS Committee on Chemical Safety  applauds and thanks the APLU for being a leader in efforts to improve and promote academic safety.

Identifying and Evaluating Hazards in Research Laboratories

The Committee on Chemical Safety is pleased to release the final report document on, "Identifying and Evaluating Hazards in Research Laboratories".  Its draft was initially released in 2013, and since then the task force responsible for authoring the document had 3 goals in mind; (1) Get the document in the hands of people who could begin using the methods described in the document, (2) resolve any comments coming back from these users and (3) create a website where users can suggest similar resources their colleagues may find helpful.  This version of the document resolves comments received to date from the community of users.  Readers should not expect to see new content, only clarifications throughout the document where appropriate.  In the coming months, CCS plans to add the associated web tools and explore possibilities of integrating the new tools within the existing ACS education programs.

This guide was written for researchers without deference to the stage in their careers—undergraduate students, graduate students, postdoctoral scholars, instructors, principal investigators, or departmental chairs for implementation in a scientific research laboratory. Consideration was given to the variable nature of research in the preparation of this guide and in the presentation of the techniques provided. The report presents  assessment approaches that are intended to be relatively easy to implement and use. While research laboratories and researchers are the primary audience for this guide, other readers may find it equally useful.

The U.S. Chemical Safety Board (CSB) had recommended that the ACS  develop guidance for assessing and controlling hazards in research laboratories. CSB met in July of 2015 to review this document and made the following decision:

“ACS’s document, Identifying and Evaluating Hazards in Research Laboratories, exceeds the CSB Recommendation No. 2010-05-I-TX-R2. The thoroughness of the publication, accompanied by the additional publication on safety culture, is beyond what the CSB requested in its recommendation. Therefore, the Board voted to change the status of the CSB’s Recommendation No. 2010-5-I-TX-R2 to: “Closed- Exceeds Recommended Action.”

The entire “Recommendations Status Change Summary” is available on the CSB website.

Creating Safety Cultures in Academic Institutions

The report provides guidance, suggestions, examples, and recommendations that will help strengthen the safety culture in two- and four-year undergraduate, graduate, and postdoctoral programs. It identifies:

  • Elements and best practices of a good safety culture
  • Recommendations for use in universities and colleges
  • Tools and resources to strengthen your safety culture
  • ACS Committee on Chemical Safety Strategic Planning Report, October 2014.  This report contains results of a facilitated Strategic Planning Retreat for ACS Committee on Chemical Safety (CCS), held in Washington, DC, on October 3-5, 2014.  The body of this report presents key outcomes from the retreat, e.g., final decisions and action items.  The Appendix contains supporting information e.g., pre-work, intermediate steps and actions, and information which may be useful to guide actions after initial implementation.
  • Employer’s Safety Awareness Expectations for New Hires
  • Certain skills are expected from new hires as a result of their education in chemistry. In addition to the traditional areas of analytical, physical, organic and inorganic chemistry, employers expect a variety of skills related to day-to-day laboratory activity. Safety awareness is among these. Employers expect safety awareness to increase with the level of education of the chemist and chemical engineer. The Safe Practices Subcommittee of the Committee on Chemical Safety has identified the basic skill set necessary for chemists at the Bachelor’s, Masters and Doctoral level of education. These are listed in the Employer’s Safety Awareness Expectations for New Hires. While the employer will need to educate a new hire about site-specific procedures, these basic skills are expected to be part of a recent graduate’s capabilities.

  • Statement of CSB Chairperson Rafael Moure-Eraso "Warning Against Use of Methanol During Laboratory"  mentions ACS Committee on Chemical Safety.

  • The ACS Committee on Chemical Safety is delighted to learn about the new report from the prestigious National Academy of Sciences entitled Safe Science: Promoting a Culture of Safety in Academic Chemical Research. This report supports our own report on “Creating Safety Cultures in Academic Institutions”.  The NAS report calls for a shift from compliance toward a strong, positive safety culture.  Recommendations call for strong leadership in safety from academic leaders and administrators, call for team and group efforts in safety, call for sharing lessons learned from incidents. We highly recommend this report.
  • The ACS Committee on Professional Training (CPT) will be releasing new Guidelines for Undergraduate programs in early 2015.  The new Guidelines will have “upgraded” safety requirements for undergraduate programs and their ACS-certified graduates that were partly influenced by feedback from the CCS.  Also, the  “Summer 2014 CPT Newsletter” contains an article about safety education.  In this widely-distributed newsletter the CPT has devoted a relatively large footprint about safety, safety culture and safety instruction.  This article aligns well with the CCS Task Force report on  "Creating Safety Culture in Academic Institutions.” This article was written by George Wilson from the CPT with considerable input from CCS member Dave Finster and CCS liaison John Palmer.
  • Task Force for Safety Education Guidelines.  The Committee on Chemical Safety (CCS) has formed the new Task Force for Safety Education Guidelines (TFSEG).  We have included partners that have a significant role in chemistry education to help produce reports and guidelines that will be valued in the chemistry community.
  • Safety in the Academic Chemistry Laboratory now available in Arabic!
    The committee is pleased to offer the Arabic translation of Safety in the Academic Chemistry Laboratory. We extend a special thanks to Akram Amir El-Ali, Department of Chemistry at Umm Al-Qura University, Makkah, Saudi Arabia for translating and adopting SACL into Arabic language.
  • Chemical Safety Blog!
    The Safety Zone blog covers chemical safety issues in academic and industrial research labs and manufacturing. The blog is a place for exchange and discussion of lab and plant safety and accident information.