Lab supervisor safety responsibilities

Role of the Laboratory Supervisor

The role of academic faculty members who have laboratory research programs has expanded from that of Principal Investigator and academic mentor to laboratory supervisor with responsibility for laboratory safety and the health and safety of all personnel who work in his or her laboratory.

Responsibility for Others

Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulations hold the employer responsible for workplace health and safety. As an agent of the university and a supervisor, laboratory supervisors may be considered to be the “employer.” Laboratory supervisors are responsible for the operation of the laboratory, including the safety of all personnel who work in the laboratory. Although tasks can be delegated to others, supervisors cannot delegate away their responsibility.

Laboratory supervisors are not expected to be present in the laboratory at all times or to be able to control people’s behaviors; however, supervisors are responsible for ensuring that an effective laboratory safety program is implemented, for ensuring that safety expectations are communicated and that personnel are trained, for assessing personnel safety behaviors, and for enforcing established laboratory safety procedures. Additionally, the supervisor must make sure to review the information provided by the Risk Management Office and properly prepare each volunteer working in the laboratory.

If Something Goes Wrong

If a laboratory incident occurs that results in a fatality OSHA will conduct a thorough investigation. OSHA may also conduct an investigation if a worker is hurt seriously. The laboratory supervisor may be considered to be the employer and to have responsibility for conditions or actions that resulted in the death or injury. In these cases, the supervisor may be subject to criminal charges and civil suits may also be a possibility.

Supervisor Responsibilities

As stated in the University Laboratory Supervisor Safety Responsibilities policy, laboratory supervisor responsibilities include the following:

  1. Ensure personnel receive documented general and laboratory-specific training.
  2. Develop written safety procedures that address hazards associated with laboratory-specific operations.
  3. Communicate hazard information and safe work practices to laboratory visitors.
  4. Provide supervision of personnel commensurate with the education, experience, and competence of personnel.
  5. Set a good example and enforce safe work practices.
  6. During an extended absence, arrange for a qualified alternate to provide supervision of laboratory operations.
  7. Ensure that laboratory safety equipment and personal protective equipment are available, in proper working order, and appropriate for the work being conducted.
  8. Implement and enforce preventative measures to control hazards and minimize risks, including complying with regulations, University and department safety policies (including the Chemical Hygiene Plan), and prudent laboratory safety practices.
  9. Maintain compliance with environmental regulations, to include proper management of hazardous wastes.
  10. Take active steps to identify laboratory safety deficiencies and ensure remediation.
  11. Ensure laboratory-related injuries and illnesses are reported to Workers’ Compensation, EH&S, and the responsible department chair.