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Research Safety

Some of the most promising opportunities for research in science, technology, and medicine carry with them significant risks. U-M places the highest priority on its responsibility to mitigate these risks and to protect the health and safety of lab personnel, research participants, the university community, the general public, and the environment. 

Research safety is a broad concept that applies to work performed both within traditional laboratory spaces as well as in other settings. Certain aspects of research safety (e.g., use of biohazards, operation of certain equipment, and laboratory safety practices) are governed by federal and state regulations that prescribe the oversight functions that are in place at U-M.  In total, however, achieving a safe research environment requires the conscientious action of many individuals throughout the University who:

  • Develop and establish university policy and guidance
  • Promote compliance with regulations and safety standards
  • Provide oversight to facilitate and ensure compliance

The U-M Office of Research Research (UMOR) and the U-M Department of Environment, Health & Safety (EHS) work together with the  schools and colleges to provide research safety programs that assist faculty, staff and students in complying with federal and state regulations and in creating a safe research environment.

Biological Safety and Compliance Program

The Biological Safety and Compliance Program ties together the two primary oversight entities for biological research at U-M:

  • The Institutional Biosafety Committee (IBC), which reports to the Vice President for Research
  • The EHS Research & Clinical Safety: Biological Program, which reports to the Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer.

The goal of the program is to foster safe and compliant biological research environment by streamlining processes for investigators and increasing coordination of leadership along the two reporting lines. The Biological Safety and Compliance Program is administered by the University of Michigan Office of Research (UMOR) and governed by the Biological Safety Program Leadership Team.

For detailed information about the requirements for work involving recombinant or synthetic nucleic acid molecules and/or research requiring BSL3 containment (including work with Select Agents and toxins), see Institutional Biosafety Committee.   

For information about specific laboratory practices for work with biohazards, as well as guidance on laboratory inspection criteria, biosafety manual completion, and biosafety cabinet certification, among other topics, see the EHS Research & Clinical Safety: Biological Program website.

Laboratory and Research Safety Program

The Laboratory and Research Safety Program is a coordinated initiative by the U-M Office of Research (UMOR), the Department of Environment, Health & Safety (EHS), and the Office of the Provost to enhance and strengthen the culture of research safety across the University of Michigan campus.

“Safe research is the responsibility of everyone in the laboratory – how we think, how we act, and most of all understanding that making sure no one gets hurt in the process is paramount. When planning a project we must understand the hazards, protective measures, and controls.”  
~ President Mark Schlissel, from the April 2015, "Enhancing the Culture of Safety in the U-M Research Community" campus email.

The goal of the program is to facilitate safe research by reviewing and updating U-M policies and guidelines, increasing awareness of safety procedures, and improving campus communications and information about safety issues and procedures.

Roles & Responsibilities

Faculty, staff, and students can learn more about promoting a safe laboratory environment from the Academic Laboratory and Research Safety Policy.  This policy outlines the general roles and responsibilities for all people conducting research in U-M laboratories or in the field (regardless of location), as well as the procedure for reporting and resolving safety issues.

For detailed information about research safety requirements (e.g., equipment, procedures, training), see the EHS Research & Clinical Safety website.

Oversight Committee

The U-M Laboratory and Research Safety Committee (LRSC) advises UMOR and EHS on the U-M policies to implement federal and state research safety regulations.  The faculty-based Committee assists departments by reviewing safety incidents and concerns in order to recommend improvements and remediation, as necessary.

References and Resources

Biosafety

Laboratory & Research Safety

Questions?

For more information about U-M research safety programs or for policy matters, call 734-936-3934 or send e-mail to jhoats@umich.edu.

For more information about research safety practices and procedures or to report safety concerns, call the Department of Environment, Health & Safety (EHS) at 734-647-1143.