With more than 70 new teaching assistants (TAs) to supervise hundreds of students each year, the Department of Chemistry works to cultivate a culture of safety from the start. That’s why the department holds a safety orientation for TAs at the beginning of each year as part of overall TA training. Recently, chemistry reached out to EH&S (Environmental Health and Safety) to provide the training in Gilman and tailor it specifically to the chemistry department.
“Safety in our teaching laboratories is and has always been of the highest priority,” said Joe Burnett, senior lecturer in chemistry and leader of the TA training. “It seemed to us that our TAs would benefit from safety instruction in the space that they would be teaching.”
Marquix Adamson, first-year graduate student in chemistry, was one of those participants. Adamson, who mostly worked on computers while an undergraduate student, appreciated the instruction and credits it with preparing him for leading his lab.
“I came in with a lot of questions to grad school,” he said. “When I got out of TA training, which included the safety training, I felt way more confident.”
In a freshman chemistry lab, the unexpected happens all the time, but the safety training helps TAs be prepared for it. From chemical spills, to fires, to students fainting, the TA must be prepared for anything.
“I’ve had chemical reactions happen in test tubes where the reaction would shoot out of the test tube and hit the back of the fumehood,” Adamson said. “We followed procedure and nobody got hurt because of it.”
The Department of Chemistry is one of only six departments across the university to request tailored safety training from the Department of Environmental Health and Services.
"I applaud the proactive efforts of the Department of Chemistry," said Beate Schmittmann, Dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. “Safety in the workplace, especially laboratories and other workspaces with potentially hazardous conditions, is critical to conducting high-impact research and training students in excellent research practices. I encourage all faculty and staff to share best practices and place a high priority on safety."
The Department of Chemistry is one of many units in LAS that is putting a priority on safety and prevention in the workplace. For information on how the Department of Environmental Health and Safety can help your unit with your safety goals, contact Michelle Thompson.