it’s everyone’s responsibility to proactively and critically evaluate the safety of our workplace. So that includes you. You are coming in with fresh eyes, and you’re expected to bring a fresh perspective and improve the current practices. Safety is also a learning objective of your graduate career, the best way to learn is to engage proactively.

RESOURCES: by the nature of research, which pushes the boundaries of the unknown, it’s likely that you will work with hazards about which you are the most knowledgeable person in the world. So that makes you the primary resource for safety in your laboratory. Now that’s a heavy burden, and you’ll need a lot of help with it, so seek out the related resources that are already out there and that may help you. Most of the times, there isn’t one single department or one single person, but a combination. Here are some suggestions:


1.         Identify the hazards

  1. Remember that your working environment is not static – it evolves. For this reason you should be doing hazard identification all the time, orally, and periodically in writing. When there are new experiments, new students, new applications are also good times to identity the hazards.
  2. Plan for decommissioning at the design & operation stages.

2.         Know the measures in place to protect you from the hazard

  1. Safety features of the equipment
  2. Personal protection equipment
  3. Procedures and training

3.         Think of who else may be exposed to this hazard. How are they informed and protected?

4.         Post signs and communicate

5.         Be prepared to respond to an accident or a near-miss

  1. Emergency phone numbers posted by the phone, and saved in your cell phone. Land lines phone by the door of the lab.
  2. Who do you notify, how and when: lab safety officer, equipment owner, building manager, lab manager, vendor of the equipment.
  3. What actions do you take to make sure that the problem is fixed? Mistakes are valuable, because we learn from mistakes; don’t let mistakes go to waste.

6.         Initiate discussion

  1. When in doubt, talk about it. The only bad questions or topic of discussion are the ones you don’t bring up.
  2. Seek safety reviews and audits from your peers, from somebody external to your lab, from specialized professionals.
  3. The last point on all safety procedures should be: “Update this procedure to reflect current practice, and to make it better.”


  • In the Engineering Physics Department
    • Your colleagues & all faculty in the department – join (it’s a chat platform that you can download on your phone and computer)
    • Raluca Scarlat chairs the department safety committee, 921 ERB, 608-890-4256. Oliver Schmitz, Ray Fonk, Kumar Sridharan, and Riccardo Bonnazza are the other members of the safety committee.
    • Paul Brooks is the building manager for ERB, 735 ERB, 608-444-4381. Know the building manager in the other buildings where you work.
  • Other specialized organizations, world-wide, and web-wide