Announcements From the VPR

Research Insights

Now (and all the time) is the perfect time to assess lab safety

Following the recommendations made by multi-year working groups comprising college, school and other unit representatives, this summer the University of Georgia will move from Academic Credit to Collaborator Contribution as a new method for designating investigator contributions to sponsored projects. The change will become effective July 1.

Have you wondered what you would do if a dangerous spill or injury happened in your lab? The immediate response, after ensuring the safety of those working in your lab and addressing the unexpected event, is to consider why it occurred and how to prevent a future similar occurrence. Perhaps there was even a lapse in compliance with federal or state regulations, which can seem ever-changing and hard to understand.

UGA’s research and instructional enterprise is incredibly complex. Doing the groundbreaking work of inquiry and service comes with an inherent level of safety risk, particularly in university laboratories.

The Office of Research Safety (ORS) staff are your support and guides for navigating regulations. The ORS team comprises nine full-time safety specialists, five of whom focus on chemical and general laboratory safety, with four more concentrating on radioactive materials, lasers and x-ray safety.

All team members work very closely with personnel in the Office of Biosafety and the Environmental Safety Division (ESD). If they cannot answer a question, they know who can.

UGA has close to 2,000 laboratories and lab support areas around campus, many with hazardous chemicals, biohazards, radioactive materials, lasers, etc. Knowing how to manage these varying hazards can be not only time-consuming but also can lead to frustration. We know that time spent deciphering safety regulations means less time spent on actual research; so, we would prefer to relieve you of the former and do the work of translation.

To take full advantage of ORS services, first let the office personnel know where you’re located. If you’re opening a new laboratory, relocating an existing laboratory or needing to decommission your lab space, please complete a Lab Change Notification Form. This will help ensure you are able to take full advantage of ORS subject matter expertise and services.

ORS specific services include:

  • Assisting you to ensure your laboratories are compliant with all federal, state and university safety policies through frequent safety visits, consultations and assessments.
  • Reviewing and approving standard operating procedures for laboratories.
  • Providing general and (upon request) customized training for you, your staff and students. Routine and on-demand courses already include “Lab Safety Basics” (available through the Professional Education Portal or PEP), “What to Expect from Lab Safety Inspections,” and “Advanced Rad Worker.” ORS staff are developing additional courses about appropriate spill and injury response, as well as chemical storage and segregation. We want this portal to be user friendly and serve your needs, so please send us comments at as you see features you like, as well as opportunities for improvement.
  • Helping laboratory representatives navigate Chematix. Managed by ESD personnel, this system provides you and your laboratory managers with quick access to manage your chemical inventories, request hazardous waste pickups, manage laboratory rosters, and document actions taken to improve safety and compliance.
  • Providing assistance with spill cleanup and emergency response. ORS maintains a 24/7 response team that can provide guidance and support services in the event of a laboratory emergency (see for contact information).
  • Supplying laboratories with up-to-date safety signage at no direct cost to the lab. You can always request additional signage and stickers on the ORS website.

ORS also offers additional fee-for-service options such as laboratory equipment decontamination and laboratory decommissioning services. Additional information about these services can also be found on the ORS website.

In summary, ORS is a multidisciplinary team of safety and support professionals working together to help our research community shoulder the weight of regulatory burden while also ensuring that community can learn, investigate and discover in a safe environment.

I have managed a UGA tissue engineering laboratory for almost eight years and have found the ORS team to be professional and collaborative. I greatly appreciate their help in maintaining the high quality of our laboratory. Moreover, I am grateful for their important service to our research enterprise!

Hope you’re enjoying your summer!

Karen J.L. Burg
Vice President for Research
Harbor Lights Chair in Biomedical Research