One (of the many) things I loved about coming to Berkeley was a relaxed lab atmosphere. If I am pipetting a caustic reagent, I wear gloves, lab coat and eye protection. If I am working with a volatile substance, I work in a hood. And if I need to pour filtered sea water, I, well … I don’t put on my lab coat, or even reach for a pair of gloves. Having a relaxed lab atmosphere does not mean a disregard for safety–it means that everyone has been sufficiently trained to make proper decisions regarding the safety of themselves and others, and that each person is trusted to take not just the safest, but also the most sensible actions.
But a lawsuit against UC is mandating stricter rules that will further retract from an individual’s power–and responsibility–to make their own good decisions. And although intentions are good and sound safety practices an absolute must, I believe that stricter rules–especially blanket policies–do not equal a safer working environment. In some cases, they may even lead to the opposite.
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