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Safety Culture

Safety is a core value of our institution and an integral part of the responsible conduct of research. The University expects all faculty students and staff working in research laboratories, teaching laboratories, field research sites, art studios, performance art spaces, and machine shops to integrate safety into their activities, to strive for excellence and to go beyond minimum compliance. Contact for resources and guidance in meeting the expectations.

The University of Maryland expects that all students, faculty, and staff will:

  • Demonstrate a Commitment to Safety. Lead by example. Foster an environment where all students and staff are encouraged and empowered to voice safety questions and concerns.
  • Assess and Plan for Hazards and Risks. Take the time to systematically assess risks and plan for the hazards identified.
  • Implement Controls. Take action to control your risks. Establish and enforce safety rules.
  • Complete Safety Training. Ensure that all researchers, students and staff have the knowledge and the skill to safely perform their activities.
  • Strive for Continuous Improvement. Managing safety requires ongoing reassessment, feedback, and reinforcement. Encourage reporting of near-misses and incidents, and use these as an opportunity to learn rather than to blame.

What actions can you take to ensure you meet these expectations and improve safety culture? Check out our Summary of Expectations for Conducting Safe Research for ideas on how you can take action today.

National Focus on Academic Safety Culture

Serious incidents in university research labs have driven efforts to examine safety culture in academic research. A positive safety culture is one in which safety is prioritized and valued by faculty, students, and staff across all levels of the University system. Accidents are seen as opportunities to learn and improve, rather than to blame.

In 2015, the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities (APLU) formed a Task Force on Laboratory Safety to synthesize recommendations from previous academic research safety reports and establish a roadmap for universities to implement the recommendations. In April, 2016, the APLU sent a letter to all Presidents and Vice Presidents for Research calling on them to renew their commitment to a strong culture of safety and to convene campus leadership teams to develop a campus-wide safety agenda. The Task Force’s A Guide to Implementing a Safety Culture in Our Universities outlines 20 recommendations and provides tools and strategies to help universities implement the recommendations.

Previously published academic research safety reports:

University of Maryland Safety Culture Survey

In 2014, the Office of Research Safety administered an IRB approved Research Safety Survey aimed at better understanding current safety practices, perceptions, and attitudes within our research community, with a goal of identifying resources needed to support a positive culture of safety. The survey results were evaluated against the Expectations for Conducting Safe Research to identify both areas of strength and areas for improvement which are discussed in the Research Safety Survey Results& report. The Research Safety Results by Expectations chart provides a one-page summary of responses to individual survey questions.

Please contact Lab Safety at for more information about the survey.

Additional Resources

Lessons Learned

Learning and improving from past mistakes is an essential part of a positive safety culture. ESSR assists with incident investigations for incidents and near-misses at the University of Maryland. Root causes identified during these investigations may be used confidentially to improve safety awareness across campus.

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