EHSO Home Page
 
        Environmental Health and Safety Office   
 
 
UMD Research Safety Plan
Research Safety Training
Research Safety Officers Toolkit
Research Safety Officers Contact List
Training Record Form
Video Training Quizzes
OSHA Fact Sheet: Hazardous Chemicals In Laboratories
Biological Safety
Haz-Waste Management.
Infectious Waste Mgt.
Radioactive Waste Mgt.
Policy For Termination of Laboratory use of Hazardous Materials
Minors in The Laboratory
Volunteers and Visitors Lab Use Agreement
 
RSO's Roles & Responsibility

This page summarizes the roles and responsibilities of a University of Minnesota research safety officer (RSO); and provides suggestions and resources to help you, as an RSO, meet these. The Department of Environmental Health and Safety (DEHS) bases this page on the responsibilities defined within the University's Research Safety Program.

There are six core roles for the RSO:


Act as a Liason

An RSO functions as a liaison between the DEHS and his/her department and /or unit.

Main responsibilities:

  • Work with DEHS to ensure your department is in compliance with all standards and regulations.
  • Work with DEHS to assess new safety and health hazards.
  • Consult with DEHS staff members and your department head to shutdown any imminent health hazards.
  • Consult with principal investigators (PIs) and appropriate departmental staff to make sure they are aware of any environmental health and safety issues.

Suggested ways to achieve this:

  • Attend RSO Training.
    DEHS provides new and update training for RSOs on a yearly basis. Training materials from these events are also available online. See our RSO Training section for more information.
  • Contact DEHS Staff.
    DEHS staff members are available to answer any questions, and help you deal with any health and safety issues and/or emergencies. See our Contact Us section for contact information.

Know The Rules

An RSO must be knowledgeable of the various environmental health and safety rules that are applicable to their department's area of research. The rules that apply depend upon your areas of research, and are imposed by a variety of federal, state, county and University agencies and programs. Regulations (e.g., OSHA, NRC, EPA, and MERTKA) are government requirements. Policies (e.g., Research Safety Plan, and Hazardous Waste Guidebook) are University and/or granting agencies requirements.

Main responsibilities:
Be aware of relevant regulations and policies.

Suggested ways to achieve this:

  • Attend RSO training.
    DEHS provides new and update training for RSOs on a yearly basis. Training materials from these events are also available online. See our RSO Training section for more information.
  • Join the RSO Contact List.
    DEHS will contact RSO periodically, through an email list, with any new or important information, such as a newly implemented policy or the quarterly newsletter. See our RSO Contact List for more information.
  • Review Health and Safety Resources.
    DEHS has created the Health and Safety Resources page: an index that lists numerous DEHS and outside resources available on a variety of health and safety issues.
  • Review the generic Research Safety Plan.
    This document contains a great deal of information about many health and safety regulations that must be met.
  • Contact DEHS Staff Members.
    DEHS staff members are available to answer any questions, and help you deal with any health and safety issues and/or emergencies. See our About Us section for contact information.

Top of Page

Implement a Research Safety Plan 

A primary task for an RSO is to ensure that he/she has implemented a Research Safety Plan (RSP) for his/her department. The RSP describes policies, procedures, equipment, personal protective equipment and work practices for protecting employees from hazards in laboratories. The RSP meets requirements in both the federal Laboratory Safety Standard and the Minnesota Employee Right To Know Act (MERTKA).

Main Responsibilities

  • Modify the University's generic plan to fit your department.
  • Perform an annual evaluation of your plan and update as necessary.
  • Submit a copy of your plan to DEHS, to the attention of the Chemical Hygiene Officer.
  • Ensure all PIs and researcher personnel are knowledegable of the contents of the RSP and have access to it within their laboratories and/or fields.
  • Ensure that PIs have written standard operating procedures (SOPs) for all of their research protocols that include information on any hazards, and safety measures necessary to mitigate these hazards.

Suggested ways to achieve this:

  • Attend RSO Training.
    DEHS provides new and update training for RSOs on a yearly basis, in which they cover the RSP in some detail. See our RSO Training section for more information.
  • Use the DEHS RSP template to tailor an RSP for your department. The Research Safety Plan template is a generic RSP that provides directions to help you tailor it for your department.
  • Provide each PI with a print copy of your RSP, and place a copy online.
  • Include information in annual training and consult directly with PIs about the safety information in your RSP.
  • Solicit feedback from the PIs about the modifications that you have made to the RSP.
  • Consult with PIs about the potential hazards that can/have occurred within their areas of research; and suggest safety measures that mitigate these hazards to help them as they write their SOPs. Use the DEHS Health and Safety Resources; review Standard Operating Procedures of the generic Research Safety Plan (which provides details on general SOPs), use our New PI/Research Area Evaluation Guide, and/or contact DEHS staff members, if you need information to guide your consultations with PIs.
  • Contact DEHS Staff Members.
    DEHS staff members are available to answer any questions as you develop the RSP. See our About Us section for contact information.

Coordinate Training

An RSO ensures that all PIs and research personnel receive basic safety training. An RSO also makes sure that PIs provide their research personnel with safety training about their specific research protocols and procedures.

Main responsibilities:

  • Make sure PIs are aware of all required safety training for themselves and their research employees.
  • Arrange general departmental training sessions for research employees.
  • Educate PIs and other researchers about the RSP.
  • Make sure PIs regularly train their research personnel about their SOPs.

Suggested ways to achieve this:

  • Consult PIs about the potential hazards that can/have occurred within their areas of research, and suggest safety measures that mitigate these hazards, to help them write their SOPs. Use the DEHS Health and Safety Resources; review Standard Operating Procedures of the generic Research Safety Plan (which provides details on general SOPs), use our New PI/Research Area Evaluation Guide, and/or contact DEHS staff members, if you need information to guide your consultations with PIs.
  • Review Employee Information and Training of the RSP to learn about various training topics that must be covered and recorded.
  • Send PIs and other research personnel to DEHS for any available training. See our Training page to find any DEHS training available in your department's area of research.
  • Include detailed information about your RSP in your annual training for PIs and research personnel.
  • Include information about the PIs responsibility to write and implement SOPs, in your annual training for PIs and research personnel.
  • Collect minutes of mandatory training meetings led by PIs and yourself.

Top of Page

Perform Audits

An RSO is responsible for checking that all research areas are safe, that equipment is working as it should, and that all safety rules are followed.

Main responsibilities:

  • Carry-out inspections (at least annually) of all laboratories and research areas.
  • Check the physical lab set up for any health and safety issues, such as safe functioning of laboratory and safety equipment, and proper chemical storage and handling.
  • Check that researchers are aware of and can access pertinent safety documents (e.g., their department�s RSP, lab-specific SOPs, MSDSs) and that all training records are current.
  • Monitor researchers as they perform lab procedures to ensure that they follow SOPs accurately, use chemicals safely, keep their safety equipment working and accessible, manage wastes properly, and comply with any other related health and safety issues.
  • Report your audit findings to appropriate PI/Lab Supervisors, and inform them of their responsibility to take action on any noted deficiencies.
  • Take follow-up actions on any audits that reveal safety deficiencies.

Suggested ways to achieve this:

  • Use the DEHS Audit Checklist
    DEHS has developed an audit checklist, located in the DEHS�s generic Research Safety Plan, that details areas to review when performing an audit.
  • Check that PIs have written copies of safety procedures and protocols for their research.
  • Review Employee Information & Training of the RSP to refresh yourself with the safety documents that must be accessible to all researchers. Follow up on audits.
  • Follow up on audits.
    There are many actions you can take to follow-up on audits, such as: ask for written responses from PIs; schedule a follow-up audit/consultation to review any noted safety problems, and/or contact DEHS for assistance.
  • Review the Research Safety Program.  This document provides information about actions to take in the event of continued non-compliance, and details the responsibility of various University community members to maintain research safety.
  • Review publications from related professional organizations. Professional organizations (e.g., American Chemical Society, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, National AG Safety Database) provide detailed information in a particular area of research, which you can use to guide your audits.
  • Contact Facilities Management
    Facilities Management can perform maintenance checks and repairs on items such as fume hoods, fire extinguishers, and more.

Keep Records

RSOs assure that departmental health and safety records and forms are kept in an adequate, accessible, and complete manner.

Main responsibilities:

  • Training: RSOs must maintain, and monitor for compliance, records of all required training provided to research personnel in their department, including training given to PIs.
  • Audits: RSO must maintain records of the lab/research space audits they perform and their audit findings and follow-up actions.
  • Exposure Monitoring: An RSO must file records of research spaces' air monitoring and any findings.

Suggested ways to achieve this:

  • Review Employee Information and Training of the RSP to learn about lab safety training topics that must be covered and recorded.
  • Review Record Keeping, Review & Update of the Research Laboratory Safety Plan of the RSP to learn details about various record-keeping requirements that must be met.
  • Collect minutes of any mandatory training sessions you give, that details what was covered in the session, and who was there (include a sign-in sheet), and attach any handouts that were given.
  • Download DEHS's simple, Word record-keeping form (suggested for smaller departments/research laboratories) to track training given to safety personnel in your department.
  • DEHS will send you any exposure monitoring reports taken within your department, which you must be file for up to 3 years. DEHS will notify you if any other actions must be taken in response to the reports (such as notifying affected individuals, and posting the reports in appropriate locations).


 
The University of Minnesota is an equal opportunity educator and employer.