26th Annual Green Chemistry & Engineering Conference

The Safety-Sustainability Continuum from University to Industry: What Industry Expects of New Ph.D. Chemistry Hires

Symposium Organizers: Marta Gmurczyk, Portfolio Manager, ACS Safety Programs; Kirck Hunter, 2021 Chair Committee on Chemical Safety, American Chemical Society

Co-Sponsor: ACS Office of Safety Programs

One of the most transformative and significant contributions to chemical safety education has been integrating the risk management concept into laboratory safety practices. The key American Chemical Society (ACS) recommendation has been that all laboratory activities should begin by identifying hazards and risks, considering the methods needed to control those risks, and preparing for emergencies. This seemingly simple concept has profoundly changed the way we think about safety in laboratory and outreach activities. A rigid, rule-based safety culture is being transformed into an empowering, risk-based safety culture. The result is that chemistry practitioners are engaged in critically considering and researching hazards and then implementing the most effective safety controls. In many cases, environmental sustainability and chemical safety and health are impacted by the same chemical hazards. Integrating risk-based safety into undergraduate education and risk management practices in graduate education will then serve as a starting point toward nurturing a commitment to the safe, ethical, responsible, and sustainable practice of chemistry and recognition of a responsibility to safeguard the health of the planet and the people who live on it through chemical stewardship. Most chemistry and chemical engineering graduate students are employed by industry. Industrial representatives have reported that as new hires come on board many companies spend weeks on remedial safety training before new hires can work in the laboratory. Industrial representatives are advocating for ACS to provide greater chemical safety preparation of Ph.D. graduates.

The proposed symposium will inform the ACS discussions focused on safety preparation of Ph.D. chemists for industrial careers and explore the following context:

  1. “Safe–Sustainability Continuum” where safety serves as a starting point toward commitment to sustainability.
  2. Specific knowledge, skills, and attitudes (KSA) related to safety and sustainability required to be successful in R&D industrial careers.
  3. Examples of programs effectively developing safety and sustainability knowledge, skills, and attitudes.
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