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'Safety Starts with U!' campaign kicks off

The Joint Safety Team's campaign, Safety Starts with U!, got off to a great start with more than 250 people attending the kickoff event, Monday, September 24.

Attendees, which included graduate students, postdoctorates, and faculty members from the departments of Chemistry (CHEM) and Chemical Engineering and Materials Science (CEMS), learned about this unique initiative to improve, enhance, and sustain the safety culture in the two departments.

Graduate students and postdoctoral researchers are taking the lead in this first-ever initiative. They are learning from safety experts in the industrial field—Dow Chemical Company. Dow Chemical Company is sharing its best-in-class laboratory safety practices, examples, advice, and resources. Last spring, Dow sponsored a two-day safety training for students and faculty at its facility in Michigan, and since then, it has been providing ongoing advice to the students and postdoctorates.

The Joint Safety Team (JST) has developed a number of short-term and long-term recommendations for improving safety practices. These recommendations will act as a guidebook to improving the safety culture in CHEM and CEMS and, eventually, other departments across the entire university.

Its safety campaign focuses on four key areas—CARE.

  • Compliance: improve compliance with lab standards on hazardous waste handling, sample and chemical storage, lab cleanliness, and the wearing of personal protective equipment (PPE);
  • Awareness: improve awareness of safety hazards, best practices, and available resources around the theme of “Safety Starts with U!”;
  • Resources: improve the quality of and access to safety resources, including the standardization of laboratory signs, development of safety websites, and PPE such as goggles, lab coats, and gloves; and
  • Education: improve the training and ongoing education of laboratory safety officers and researchers.

At the kickoff event, graduate student leaders Kate McGarry, Alex Rudd, and Katie Hurley talked about the work of the 60+ member Joint Safety Team, and its priorities for the future. The JST has developed safety-themed posters that soon will be strategically placed in both departments, have implemented information safety moments before meetings and seminars, have increased an emphasis on wearing proper safety gear in laboratories, and outlined a number of other initiatives designed to improve safety.

For the leaders of the two departments—Frank Bates, head of CEMS, and William Tolman, chair of CHEM—building a collective and individual culture of safety is important. Both of them appreciate this opportunity to learn best practices from Dow Chemical Company, and are proud of the leadership and hard work of the JST.

This effort is generating interest at the college and university level. Both Craig Moody, director of the Department of Environmental Health & Safety, and Steven Crouch, dean of the College of Science & Engineering, expressed the hope that components of this campaign will result in initiatives that can be shared across the university, and with other universities.  

Photos from the kickoff event are available at, on the Department of Chemistry Facebook page at, and on the College of Science & Engineering Facebook page at For more information, go to Check out the story in the Minnesota Daily newspaper, Monday, October 1, 2012.

Pictured on the home page is one of the safety posters that soon will be appearing in strategic locations in the Department of Chemistry and the Department of Chemical Engineering and Materials Science.

Pictured are kickoff presenters, from left, Pankaj Gupta, Ph.D., senior strategy leader for research and development at Dow Chemical Company; Professor Frank Bates, head of the Department of Chemical Engineering and Materials Science; Craig Moody, director of the Department of Environmental Health & Safety; Steven Crouch, dean of the College of Science & Engineering; and William Tolman, chair of the Department of Chemistry.