Safety Corner

ACS Safety Resources focus on Holistic Approach

“Traditional safety instructions or videos” in which instructors might read (or show!) a list of rules at the start of the semester or provide a quick mention of hazards at the beginning of each lab period with an emphasis on PPE might not be applicable in the complex and interdisciplinary chemistry of the 21st century.  These traditional instructions develop a knowledge of safety rules but not a transferable and expandable knowledge of safety, that includes critical thinking related to hazard recognition and risk assessment that should be part of any laboratory work.

To assist the chemical community with developing this more holistic risk-based approach to safety, the Committee on Chemical Safety (CCS) has been providing its support to two ACS resources: an on-line safety course and a safety video series, both developed to support learning objectives in Guidelines for Chemical Laboratory Safety in Academic Institutions and aligned with Safety in the Academic Chemistry Laboratories.

Scientist in laboratory
Photo by ThisIsEngineering

The target audience of the ACS online course titled Foundations of Chemical Safety and Risk Management for Chemistry Students are undergraduates who have completed two semesters of general chemistry and one semester of organic chemistry laboratory experiences. Students with this background will have a basic level of laboratory experiences which will make the course materials relevant and immediately applicable. The course is organized around the RAMP management system - Recognize hazards, Assess the risks from the hazards, Minimize and manage the risks, and Prepare for the unexpected and emergencies. The course has 16 content units followed by a final course assessment.  Each unit is designed to be completed in approximately 40 minutes to 1 hour, including the unit assessment.  The course also includes enrichment content that provides additional information related to the core course. This content is intended for the advanced learner.

The total time needed to complete the course (without the enrichment material) is expected to be approximately 15 hours. Successful students who complete all 16 units and the final course assessment will receive a Certificate of Completion. The course is offered at no charge and students can enroll in the course at learning.acs.org

The second project in development is a series of the ACS Safety videos for undergraduate students, a long-awaited replacement for the classic “Starting with Safety” video released in 1991. The videos will address safety issues encountered by first- and second-year college students in general chemistry and organic chemistry laboratories. As with the on-line course, the video is organized around, and emphasizes the RAMP principles, representing a shift away from a safety culture based primarily on rules to one that is based on hazard recognition and risk assessment in chemistry laboratories. These videos will build upon the safety videos for high schools that are available online. The videos for undergraduate students are scheduled for release by the end 2021.

Please contact safety@acs.org with any questions related to the safety resources. 


CPT article on Safety Guidelines featured in J. Chem Ed Special Issue

Among the tasks that the ACS Committee on Professional Training undertakes is the periodic revision of the ACS Guidelines and Evaluation Procedures for Bachelor's Degree Programs (also known as "the guidelines"). Because the guidelines recommend and/or mandate practices for the safe education of undergraduate students, laboratory safety is addressed at multiple points within them.

Person in a lab coat and gloves at work in a lab