Safety Buddy Protocol for Extended Hours

New Safety Buddy Description of Responsibilities

The Safety Buddy fulfills several roles and is a critical element in maintaining  a safe departmental working environment. This document lists these responsibilities.

  1. The Safety Buddy is in a formalized working relationship with another researcher, their buddy. This relationship is entered on the Safety Buddy website, buddy.chem.wisc.edu.  A Safety Buddy is required when pursuing any activity in the lab during extended hours, which start after 5PM on weekdays. All available weekend hours are considered extended hours. Many group SOPs also require safety buddies during other times, this document does not address those additional requirements. Both individuals must be physically in the departmental complex (though they may be in different groups, floors, buildings, as long as the requirements of Item #2 are met)
  2. The Safety Buddy should know the location of and access to emergency equipment (e.g. safety shower, eyewash, fire extinguishers [Class ABC&D], spill kits, and fire alarm) in their buddy’s laboratory. The Safety Buddy should program the numbers for UW Police (Emergency-911 Non-emergency-608-264-2677) and the EH&S (608-265-5700) into their cell phone.
  3. The Safety Buddy is responsible for staying in periodic contact with their buddy while in the building. Contact can be in person, via text, via phone call, or via other messaging app. Contact should be made at least once an hour (individual PIs may set more frequent check in requirements if deemed necessary). If their buddy does not respond, the Safety Buddy will verify, in person, that no accident has occurred. In no circumstances, should a Safety Buddy leave the building without notifying their buddy. A new Safety Buddy must be established if the previous one leaves the building.
  4. The Safety Buddy should be aware of the type of procedures their buddy is undertaking, such as use of flammable solvents, strong acids, cryogenic liquids, or Class IV lasers. This is particularly important for items #5 and #6.
  5. If the buddy has been involved in an accident, the Safety Buddy will help coordinate and execute the appropriate response in their best judgement, which may include pulling the firealarm, or calling 911, UWPD, Environmental Health and Safety, the Building Manger, or the PI.
  6. If the accident referred to in point #5 requires an emergency response, the Safety Buddy will make themselves available, in person, to fire department, UW police, building manager, tradesperson, or other emergency responder at the scene.
  7. If needed, the Safety Buddy will assist in writing incident reports with their buddy and PI.

Note:  Having a Safety Buddy is not a substitute for knowing and following group SOPs and safety protocols.  Undergraduate researchers must follow additional safety protocols and are not addressed by this document.

Safety Buddy FAQ

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Why is this system being implemented now, and why is there a rush?

The capability of campus to respond to challenges that arise in chemistry continue to be reduced relative to pre-COVID levels during extended hours (after 5PM on weekdays and the entirety of weekends). This new procedure is viewed as a necessary precaution before extended hours can be increased to 6AM-12AM, 7 days/week.

How will this document evolve over the next few weeks and months?

After the Safety Buddy system has been in effect for some time, we will make an anonymous survey available for additional feedback. A townhall may also be scheduled. Over the coming months, the Safety Committee also hopes to roll out a Chemical Safety Level classification scheme to more clearly identify Safety Buddy responsibilities and highlight procedures that should NOT be done during extended hours, as well as procedures for 24 hour access to the building.

Do safety responsibilities constitute a legally binding obligation?

No.  Consultation with HR has determined that though this list of responsibilities will be enforced by PIs, there is no legal obligation.

Does this document mean Safety Buddies will have more responsibilities?

Yes, but not much.  This document will hopefully prevent “superficial” or “empty” Safety Buddy roles.  We really want to encourage substantial communication between buddies! In addition, there will be a new responsibility to make yourself available to first responders and help call in extra building help (Jeff, PI, etc.), but this is only during an emergency.

Does having a Safety Buddy mean that I can do any chemical procedure I want during extended hours?

Heck NO.  Group SOPs should already specify which procedures CANNOT be undertaken during extended hours.  We expect the Safety Committee to produce more guidelines on this point over the next few months.

Can Buddy pairs form or change on the fly or does everything have to be planned in advance?

Forming of changing Buddy pairs on the fly is completely acceptable. You just need to eventually find a buddy and then update the website. For example, if you arrive at the building without a pre-arranged Buddy (or thought you were going to be done by 5PM but unexpectedly had to stay longer), you may need a few minutes to find one (by looking in nearby labs or consulting the Marauder’s Map) and exchange basic information on what you are doing.

Can one Safety Buddy have multiple buddies?

Yes, it is not a one-for-one system. For example, groups that use a shift or community system can still continue using their system, but at least one “official” name must still be entered for each person.

Do Safety Buddies need to be in the same group?

Nope.  As long as the Safety Buddy can satisfy points #2 and #4, they do not have to be in the same group as the buddy. In many cases, a short conversation or email would be sufficient to exchange this information.

How much do I really need to know about my Safety Buddy’s experiment and lab?

Only basic information about the nature of the hazards in their work and access to safety equipment.  If you go to check on your Safety Buddy and find that an accident has occurred, we want you to be able to quickly help assist in the response, which may require access to a fire extinguisher, safety shower, etc..  We want you to be able to tell an Emergency First responder that your Safety Buddy was working with flammable solvents, strong acids, invisible lasers, etc.

What if I am just coming in the lab for a few minutes, say to start a bacterial culture or TLC a reaction, do I still need a Safety Buddy?

At the moment, YES, though this policy may change in the future.  The Marauder’s Map will still be useful way for you to find other people in the building, not necessarily in your own group, who can be your Safety Buddy for your short visit.

Will the Safety Buddy website be a pain in the neck to use?

No.  The website is really simple, you just enter in a name.  You will be able to enter in a new Safety Buddy in just a few seconds, and then both parties will receive an email.  There is no approval/denial process.

Ugh, why are you making me use another website when I’m already using the Marauder’s Map?

We can’t edit the MM website quickly, so that’s why we are using a separate one.  Seriously, it’s super simple.

Is the Safety Buddy website finished?

No, but it is functional.  We will be rolling out a few features over the coming weeks to make it even simpler (such as autocomplete so that it takes even less time to enter in your buddy).

My group already has an informal safety buddy system. Why is this needed?

We want this process to be universal, and we want the added gravitas the comes from an official, documented procedure.  A universal system is particularly helpful for when buddies are needed from different research groups. The cost of this official system in terms of time and complexity is the need to enter in your safety buddy on the website, and we believe this cost to be extremely low.   If this ends up being a pain in the neck, we want to know so that we can further streamline.

Will there still be an extended hour faculty CSM program?

Yes, but it will be voluntary, ie, faculty would not be required to be in the building in order for extended hours research to occur.

What do the CHOs think of all this?

The CHOs have seen this plan, given feedback (largely positive). They identified several places where the language or motivation was a bit unclear and and so I have and will continue to refine.