Second Annual Excellence in Laboratory Safety Awards



Recognition is part of safety. At least, that’s what the Office of Environment, Health & Safety (EH&S) wants the research community to remember as the second annual Excellence in Laboratory Safety award winners were announced.

On January 31, 2017, Vice Chancellor for Research Paul Alivisatos formally recognized eight campus laboratory research groups and one core facility with awards for promoting safe practices and culture. A ceremony for the awards was co-hosted by the research division and EH&S at the Faculty Club.

The awards program was developed by EH&S in 2015. It recognizes small and large labs from four categories: chemical sciences, life sciences, field sciences and physical sciences. All labs are evaluated based on the variety of hazards they are confronted with, the findings from EH&S lab inspections, the strength of safety leadership demonstrated by the principal investigator, and the follow-up and communications of the lab safety coordinator. Among the labs that win within these categories, a grand prize winner is selected and awarded the Excellence in Laboratory Safety trophy.

The 2016 grand prize was awarded to Dr. David Schaffer, his lab safety coordinator Noem Ramey and their research group. The award was handed off by 2015 grand prize winner, Irfan Siddiqi during the awards ceremony.

The Schaffer Lab stood out among his competitors for their strong commitment to safety, as established by Professor Schaffer. The group maintains 100 percent compliance with safety training requirements, which are numerous because of the wide array of hazards present in their lab. With 40 members, the Schaffer Lab is a large group operating in a limited space, which can present a challenge to the use of best practices. For these reasons, and many more, their safe and efficient lab activities are especially noteworthy.

Dr. Schaffer took a moment during his acceptance speech to highlight the secret to his lab’s thriving safety culture — his lab safety coordinator. “Noem is the reason I am up here and receiving this award.”

In an effort to recognize the work that goes into ensuring that our campus core research facilities are safe, EH&S added a new award category. The facilities nominated themselves by submitting several short essays describing action they had taken toward promoting safety. After extensive review, this year’s winner is the Marvell Nanofabrication Facility, managed by Bill Flounders.

The winners from each other category were also recognized at the ceremony and received certificates, door ribbons, and pizza parties for their research groups.

EH&S Executive Director Mark Freiberg described the awards as, “an opportunity to shine a spotlight on the very best safety practices in campus laboratories, and examples of leadership that others can emulate.”

Freiberg indicates that the program has generated a lot of attention and positive feedback from campus researchers and that EH&S is looking at ways to further enhance the program for future years.  He says, “the Excellence in Lab Safety Awards really demonstrated that, at Berkeley, safety is part of science.”

Check out the rest of the 2016 Excellence in Lab Safety award winners here.