Black Ops–The Lab Safety Chronicles

Aton, Elizabeth
(Metropolitan Manufacturers)

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This presentation is a hybrid of identification of a class of very complex lab situations, meshed with strategies and tactics to improve EHS practices in those situations. Such work is very challenging to the EHS specialist, yet very satisfying as it progresses. Lab scientists and technicians have the same occupational motivations as workers in other settings. They face budget cuts, time constraints and sometimes unrealistic results expectations by management. These factors can drive what one might call less than ideal practices to become part of the lab operations. Such are the activities and practices, the “Black Ops” the EHS specialist may encounter as s/he becomes familiar with a lab’s members and activities. Black Ops are the things they don’t talk about to strangers. Black Ops are unauthorized projects. Black Ops use chemicals acquired outside the system. Black Ops may start with a lab member saying “I wonder what would happen. . “. Examples of the more noteworthy Black Ops the presenter has encountered are included here. The mission of the EHS specialist is to earn the trust of Black Ops lab members and find pathways for them to normalize Black Ops within an EHS framework. The EHS specialist will use standard methodology for EHS integration, but the delivery must be as creative as a lab’s Black Ops are. This presentation describes methods for teaching a framework of risk assessment, and providing assistance in movement of obstacles that create motivation for Black Ops to exist. This is followed by discussion of methods by which the EHS specialist then moves into the role of subject matter expert, providing technical and regulatory compliance knowledge for integration into lab operations. The presentation is timed for question and discussion opportunity.

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