Lab safety is critical for anyone learning to work in a lab. That includes chemistry students but also people studying food science, pre-med, nursing, chemical engineering, and many other fields. When entering an undergraduate lab for the first time, it’s easy for a student not to recognize their role in maintaining a safe workspace. They can overlook hazards, misunderstand how to prevent incidents, or fail to act appropriately should the worst occur. That’s why learning a risk-based approach to safety that emphasizes personal responsibility lays a solid foundation for working in a lab, whether it’s for a semester or a lifetime.
Safety is one of the core values of the American Chemical Society. There has been excellent work done by individuals at different colleges and universities to strengthen initial laboratory safety instruction for undergraduate students. Additionally, ACS members have developed high-quality resources upon which we all draw. However, many institutions still struggle to continuously offer up-to-date, consistent, and engaging safety instruction that is built into the curriculum. That’s why ACS Publications developed the ACS Essentials of Lab Safety for General Chemistry, a new offering within the ACS Institute. This 90-minute self-paced course walks students through the RAMP (recognize, assess, minimize, prepare) framework for staying safe in the lab in an engaging manner that’s perfect for students who are about to enter a lab for the first time.
Across 6 engaging, interactive modules, the course teaches students to understand their role in maintaining a positive safety culture, recognize common laboratory hazards, assess and minimize those risks, and prepare for any emergencies that might arise.
The 90-minute course is suitable for general chemistry courses at two-year and four-year institutions. It can be completed on various mobile devices and allows students to do the work at their own pace, starting and stopping as needed. These modules incorporate a range of accessibility options, including closed captioning, screen reader access, style customization, keyboard capability, and open navigation. The course also uses contemporary videos and images to make the material relatable and easy to put into practice. Learning about modern lab equipment and safety gear before entering the lab allows students to approach the bench for the first time with confidence.
ACS Essentials of Lab Safety for General Chemistry was developed by Professor Susan Wiediger of Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, Professor Craig Merlic of University of California, Los Angeles, Professor Weslene Tallmadge of Gannon University, and Dominick Casadonte of Texas Tech University. The materials were reviewed by Dr. Imke Schroeder of the University of California Center for Lab Safety and Dr. Michael Blayney, Executive Director of Research Safety at Northwestern, to ensure the course met the highest professional standards.