A review and critique of academic lab safety research


Over the past ten years, there have been several high-profile accidents in academic laboratories around the world, resulting in significant injuries and fatalities. The aftermath of these incidents is often characterized by calls for reflection and re-examination of the academic discipline’s approach to safety research and policy. However, the study of academic lab safety is still underdeveloped and necessary data about changes in safety attitudes and behaviours has not been gathered. This Review article critically examines the state of academic chemical safety research from a multifactorial stance, including research on the occurrence of lab accidents, contributors to lab accidents, the state of safety training research and the cultural barriers to conducting safety research and implementing safer lab practices. The Review concludes by delineating research questions that must be addressed to minimize future serious academic laboratory incidents as well as stressing the need for committed leadership from our research institutions.

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ADM and JFT would like to thank the University of Windsor for salary support for the preparation of this work. We would also like to thank C. Houser, K. Soucie, M. Bondy, J. Hayward and D. Cavallo-Medved for their comments on earlier drafts of this paper.

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A.D.M. wrote the draft of the paper; both A.D.M. and J.F.T. conducted the literature search and analysis; both A.D.M. and J.F.T. revised the paper.

Correspondence to A. Dana Ménard or John F. Trant.

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The investigation report prepared by California’s Division of Occupational Safety & Health relating to the laboratory accident at UCLA in 2008 that led to the death of Sheharbano Sangji.

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Ménard, A.D., Trant, J.F. A review and critique of academic lab safety research. Nat. Chem. 12, 17–25 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41557-019-0375-x

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