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Safety questions

I have a safety question. Whom can I ask for more information?

You are certainly welcome to ask us, but if we don’t have the answer, we’ll point you toward one of the many safety resources on campus. In many cases, your professor or PI will be the best resource for lab-specific safety questions. HSE and OHS staff members are also great resources.

I have a safety concern, but I’m uncomfortable sharing it publicly. Is there a confidential place I can share it?

To begin, if you have experienced a near miss or accident, we strongly encourage you to consider making an official report. There are a variety of reporting options on campus and the CSSC is working on a summary of those choices here on our website. Reporting helps safety personnel learn about the safety needs at JHU and there are many policies and procedures in place to protect those who make such reports.

We at the CSSC understand that there are still many factors that prevent people from making reports. In an effort to lower these barriers, the CSSC is always open to hearing about near misses, incidents, or concerns from anyone at JHU. You can share your information with the current Chair of the committee or email to our group address and we will discuss it at one of our students-only meetings. The more info you can provide, the better. The CSSC is not empowered to make safety changes in or outside the department, but we do have the ability to speak on your behalf to the people that do. We may share your concerns in aggregate with these individuals but we will make every effort to keep the sources anonymous.

Another excellent (and truly confidential, in the legal sense) option is to speak with the JHU Ombuds Office. Similar to the CSSC, this office provides listening services and connections to other JHU resources, free of charge.


Is fire extinguisher training available on campus?

Yes! To access the course, log into your MyJHU and select the education tab on the left. This tab should expand where you can then select myLearning. A new window should open. In the search tool bar, search “Using Fire Extinguishers at JHU Homewood.” Two courses should pop up: one online and the other instructor led. Sign up and take the online course (takes ~20 min). Once the online course is completed, contact Dan Kuespert for information about the instructor led session.

Does your group run other trainings?

We do not run any formal trainings at this time. However, we occasionally organize trainings and talks for the department run by other groups at JHU such as HSE or HERO. Several such trainings took place during Safety Day.


What is Safety Day?

Safety Day is an annual half- or full-day event comprising talks, trainings, and social events all pertaining to safety. It is usually held early in the fall semester and is open to all students, faculty, and staff of the Chemistry department and related departments. There are lots of opportunities to collaborate on events or suggest new ones. Planning for Safety Day usually starts around May for an event taking place in September/October, so reach out early if you are interested!

What is ‘Ask Me Anything’?

Ask Me Anything is a new initiative for the CSSC where members of our executive board make themselves available to answer questions from members of the department. The questions can be about anything – safety, the structure of the committee, future plans, etc. If an attending member can’t answer right away, they’ll take down your contact info and reach out to the appropriate HSE or committee staff. Questions we’ve received often end up on this FAQs page!

Does your group run inspections?

In the past, we ran informal “peer-to-peer lab inspections” shortly before the formal HSE inspections each year to help prepare labs to meet requirements in a timely manner. These were organized by CSSC students, who would tour a lab with that lab’s students and complete a copy of the HSE checklist. At the request of faculty members, the CSSC no longer runs these inspections but we do provide a Chemistry-tailored inspection checklist for students to complete with their PIs.

Group structure

Who decides what the group works on? How are your initiatives and goals chosen?

At the beginning of each semester, CSSC members vote to select three goals for the upcoming semester. The goals are suggested by executive board and regular members alike. Our goals are usually inspired by recent events in the department or needs the group has identified within itself.

Who can participate in your group and events?

All researchers in the Chemistry Department, including undergraduates, graduates, postdoctoral fellows, staff scientists, and visiting researchers are welcome and encouraged to participate in all our events. We also welcome participation from those in related disciplines, such as Physics, Chemical Engineering, and Biology. Anyone who meets the requirements on our membership page can join our committee and attend meetings. Email the current chair if you are interested!

Can undergraduates participate?

Yes! All researchers means all researchers. Undergraduates are more than welcome to participate in our committee. The CSSC has historically been a primarily graduate-student group and recognizes that undergraduate schedules and safety experience differ significantly. For this reason, we do not expect undergraduate members to attend all committee and subcommittee meetings, although we do expect them to be generally involved in the group’s initiatives. They will be mentored by a graduate or postdoc member of the CSSC.

A certificate program (the Undergraduate Safety Captain Program, or USCP) is available for undergraduates who complete a one-day orientation during the summer. These undergrads are then expected to act as a link between the undergraduate student body and the CSSC, providing a kind of safety resource to the many students whose primary lab experience comes from a teaching lab.

Undergrads may join the group just like any other member, by emailing a member of our executive board or our group address.

When can I join your group? When are elections?

New members are welcomed at any point in the year. Just email a member of our executive board or our group address!

Our annual elections for executive board positions are held at the first meeting after the first day of the fall semester. If there is a vacancy in the middle the year, we usually hold an election at the next meeting after the vacancy develops.

When are your meetings?

We meet once a month, all year long. The exact dates and times of our monthly meetings are decided at the first meeting of each semester.

Do faculty attend your meetings?

Faculty are welcome to attend CSSC meetings but typically our meetings are attended by students and postdocs only. The CSSC provides a peer-to-peer listening resource for students with safety concerns, and as such does not publicly advertise its meeting locations. Faculty members interested in attending may contact our Chair or faculty advisor for the time and location of the next meeting.

Does your group work in other departments?

No. The CSSC feels that its time and resources (including funding) are best spent working in its home department. Our members are experts in the field of chemistry but do not have the expertise to address safety issues in general. We are happy to point non-department members to safety resources we have collected and identified, but we restrict our activities to those that reach members of the Chemistry department.

If you are interested in creating an inter-departmental safety group, we recommend you speak to HSE, SGA or GRO, or Dan Kuespert for information about inter-departmental funding and advising.

I am interested in starting a group like this in my own department. Can I reach out for more info on how you got started?

Absolutely! Contact our current Chair if you’d like to sit in on one of our meetings and see how we operate. We can also put you in touch with similar groups at other institutions that may be able to give you some advice.

Affiliations and collaborations

Is your group affiliated with HSE or Dan Kuespert’s office?

We are affiliated with neither. Our group is run by the students of the KSAS Chemistry Department. The CSSC is funded through Chemistry and is advised by Chemistry faculty. Our current advisor is Dr. J. D. Tovar. Our group seeks advice on laboratory safety from other organizations within JHU, including HSE, OHS, and JHFRE, as well as external resources as needed.

Do you work with TRU-UE?

Our members may work independently with the union if they choose, but the CSSC has no official relationship or affiliation with TRU-UE. If you are a representative of TRU-UE and would like to get in touch, please contact us.

Do you work with other student groups?

We’re always interested in collaborations with other student groups both in the department and outside it! Got an idea? Contact us!

Are there groups like the CSSC at other institutions?

Yes! The ACS categorizes these groups as Lab Safety Teams (or LSTs) and there are several of them – but we are the only group in Maryland! The CSSC is interested in collaborating with similar groups and sends members to attend ACS Safety Summits in the hopes of learning from our colleagues at other institutions.