Make student safety a top priority
By Betsy Dunn, Health, Safety and Environment Director, and Meridith Bruozas, Educational Programs and Outreach Manager
Each summer, Argonne welcomes student interns and the energy they bring to our campus. Part of their work experience requires awareness of and a focus on safety. While this is an exciting time for both the students and Argonne, we need your help in educating and supporting our students as they transition into the laboratory’s safety culture.
When students arrive on site, they attend the New Employee Orientation, which includes an Environment, Safety, and Health (ESH) Orientation. They also complete training courses that have been identified by their Job and Hazard Questionnaire (JHQ). In order to be productive during their brief time at Argonne, students are onboarded into Argonne’s safety culture rather quickly and subsequently are given a lot of information in a very short period. Please help them through this process by continually modeling and repeating information while also being aware that students come from all different backgrounds and skill levels.
Please take a few minutes to review the following safety guidance points with your interns:
- Walk the space. During the student’s first week, provide a tour of your department, the experimental space and the student’s workspace. This is a good time to discuss evacuation routes, tornado shelters, work control documents (WCDs), safety procedures and emergency equipment. It is also a good time to introduce the student to your division’s environment, safety and health coordinator.
- Explain why. Please take time to explain processes and procedures. Sharing the rationale for our actions helps students better understand the importance of these expectations.
- Explain acronyms. Argonne’s culture is to speak in acronyms. Be aware that students will not understand these terms and may not feel comfortable repeatedly asking for clarification. Please monitor your own communication and check frequently for understanding.
- Address appropriate attire and personal protective equipment (PPE). Please share expectations of what is appropriate attire and what kinds of PPE are required for specific workspaces and activities.
- Working alone is not permitted. Oversight of students is essential for a successful experience and safe environment. Students are not permitted to work alone in a building or laboratory at any time and are not allowed to work after hours or on weekends without a direct supervisor present.
- Assign tasks that are within the scope of students’ abilities. Students’ abilities and experiences vary. Develop a process that allows you to identify students’ strengths and weaknesses so you can appropriately match tasks to their abilities. Please keep in mind that some students may be reluctant to speak up when they are unsure.
- Identify experimental boundaries. Be clear on where experimental boundaries are within a research project and a WCD. If students want to modify an experiment, be sure that they understand that they need to get approval from both their mentor and the owner of the WCD before proceeding with modifications.
- Emphasize Stop Work Authority. Students, like all Argonne personnel, have both the ability and responsibility to stop work if they see or feel that something is unsafe.
- Have a back-up mentor/supervisor. Students are required to have a mentor/supervisor on site at all times when they are working. If you are away, please identify a co-mentor who will take over the responsibility of the student. Ensure that the student knows who their co-mentor is in your absence.
- Be prepared to assist in a daytime emergency evacuation. Look for students and help them find their way to safety. They may be unfamiliar with a building’s layout, particularly when visiting new locations.
- Evening emergency evacuation procedures. Students living on site have emergency cards and emergency procedures on their ID cards, in their living quarters and in their orientation binders. They may also be sent additional instructions via email and text message.
The newly formed Student Operations Team (SOT) will meet every Monday to discuss any concerns or issues that arise with the student population. If you have any questions or concerns you would like SOT to address, please contact Lisa Reed.
Thank you for your assistance and support as we welcome this year’s record-breaking number of summer students. We are looking forward to a safe summer.