Why Create a Laboratory Safety Culture When You Already Have One?

Gibbs, Lawrence
(Stanford University, Stanford, CA)

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We all hear about the buzz of needing to create a laboratory safety culture. This begs two questions: do you really have no safety culture now; or, do you have one but don’t like what you currently have? The fact is every organization has a safety culture; it just may be a “bad” safety culture. When discussing laboratory safety culture or campus safety culture, what one needs to look at is the spectrum of the issue, and not solely the need to “create a culture.” These organizational issues are not new and the basis of most organizations is they have cultural norms that are established over time and at some point change is desired to move from one point to another point on a scale of expected continuous improvement. The same is true for an organizational safety culture; it is preferable to discuss the concept as not “creating” or introducing an entirely new value system for an organization, but to moving from one point on the development scale to another, improved position. In the context of organizational change, this is a much easier task than attempting to “create” and introduce an entirely new value system into an organization, especially one as diverse and resistant to change as the academic research enterprise. This presentation focuses on presenting some baseline concepts related to safety cultures and values, reviews the unique organizational characteristics of academic research laboratories, and discusses core variables of different types of safety cultures and how they relate to the academic laboratory research environment. The qualities and characteristics of different types of safety cultures that help define which type of safety culture an entire organization or a research laboratory will be covered. The goal is to generate discussion and dialogue about various ways to implement safety culture changes in different organizations.

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