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Personal Relationships & Lab Safety Culture

Exploring how personal/professional relationships motivate improvements in lab safety culture

We are studying how relationships between EHS professionals and researchers impact lab safety


Since 2008 when Sheri Sangji died in a tragic lab fire at UCLA, academia has been plagued by catastrophic lab incidents (fatal and severely injurious). The more we can understand how to influence PIs and lab researchers regarding risk perceptions and lab safety culture, the more we can hopefully find innovative ways to maximize their lab safety culture and ultimately prevent future tragedies.


We will develop two survey tools – one for EHS professionals in academia and one for PIs and researchers working in labs. Additionally we will conduct interviews with participants from each of these three sub-groups. We will study the differences that result when there are “work friendships” between EHS folks and the PIs and researchers to see if that is a strong factor in risk perceptions and/or lab safety culture.


Our goals are to better understand the nature of professional friendships as they may influence one’s ability to increase and sustain the lab safety culture. With these increased understandings come various recommendations for how exactly safety services are delivered in research and academic labs in higher ed.


We all know that our friends are more receptive to our suggestions than acquaintances are. So, what exactly is the nature of the “work friendship” when it comes to the EHS staff person and a PI or a researcher in a lab? Are they more likely to “comply” with the recommendations of the EHS person? How have EHS folk seen their work friendships and how have PIs and researchers seen theirs?

We will use both survey tools and one-on-one interviews to ascertain the nature of these questions. If results confirm our hypothesis then the implication for EHS persons to try to establish work friendships would be clearer and may make a difference in risk perceptions and lab safety culture.


We welcome outside funding to perform this study. This would accomplish a fuller, richer study that could be used to impact and influence how lab safety services are delivered in academia.


The Parallel Lab Books project is being carried out by Jonathan Klane and Andrew Maynard. Jonathan is the Assistant Director for Safety Programs in the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering at ASU, and is particularly interested in innovative ways of reducing risks through a culture of safety. He is also pursuing a PhD in the Human and Social Dimensions of Science and Technology


Jonathan Klane, M.S.Ed., CIH, CSP, CHMM, CET
Assistant Director for Safety Programs in the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering, ASU

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