1.3 Roles and Responsibilities

Employees, supervisors, Departmental Safety Officers, department heads, deans, upper administrative staff, and HSRM staff all have roles to play. These roles are outlined below.

President, Vice Presidents, Provosts, and Chancellors (Central Administration)

Upper level administrators are responsible to: 

  • Actively promote the importance of safety in the research community and encourage continuous improvement efforts.
  • Ensure deans, directors, and department heads provide adequate time and recognition for employees who are given laboratory safety responsibilities.
  • Objectively evaluate direct reports on their safety involvement.

Deans, Associate Deans, Directors, and Department Heads

College and Department leadership are responsible to:

  • Actively promote the importance of safety in the research community.
  • Support and participate in safety improvement efforts.
  • Establish collegiate, departmental, or institute based safety committees or other effective means to facilitate continuous safety improvement.
  • Monitor the effectiveness of safety improvement efforts. 
  • Ensure PIs and Lab Directors provide adequate time and recognition for employees who are given laboratory safety responsibilities.
  • Identify an appropriate number of technically-qualified Departmental Safety Officers (DSOs) for the unit. Colleges or institutes made up of a number of large laboratory-based departments are urged to assign DSOs within each department or division.
  • Ensure that the designated DSO and safety committees have dedicated time and resources to carry out their assigned responsibilities.
  • Establish and maintain processes to ensure the DSOs are informed of new and changing faculty space assignments, including faculty leaving the University.
  • Objectively evaluate direct reports on their safety involvement and continuous improvement efforts.

Safety Committees (or other Departmental or Collegiate safety improvement mechanisms)

Safety committees are responsible to:

  • Maintain a working knowledge of their work areas, actively engage in safety improvement, and visibly advocate for safety.
  • Evaluate and improve departmental and collegiate safety cultures.
  • Identify high-risk job tasks and promote the development of safe work practices.
  • Identify and share best practices across the Department or College.
  • Identify the need for written programs and recommend implementation to department or college leadership.
  • Regularly assess and communicate with departmental and collegiate leadership through clearly defined reporting mechanisms.
  • Promote and facilitate safety training.
  • Review results of periodic safety audits and inspections (via Department Safety Officers). Members are also encouraged to participate.
  • Solicit reports of unsafe conditions and suggest corrective actions.
  • Review incidents, near misses, accident investigation reports - not for fault finding, but for fact finding to prevent a recurrence of the same or similar incident.
  • Review injury and incident data for trends.
  • Establish departmental and collegiate goals for safety improvement.

Departmental Safety Officer (DSO)

College or Departmental Safety Officers are responsible to:

  • Serve as a liaison and facilitate communication between the faculty and staff in their department and HSRM.
  • Be a Safety Leader by maintaining a working knowledge of their research areas and safety requirements, actively engage in safety improvements, and visibly advocating for safety.
  • Consult on safety training by making sure PIs and staff are aware of all required safety training and resources or by connecting them with their HSRM Safety Partners.
  • Schedule and participate in inspections of laboratories in conjunction with HSRM personnel and assist in facilitating follow-ups on improvement recommendations from inspections.
  • Participate on or facilitate departmental safety committees.

Supervisors/Principal Investigators

Immediate supervisors of laboratory employees are responsible to:

  • Ensure potential hazards of specific projects have been identified and addressed before work is started
  • Ensure effective safe operating procedures are written and followed for lab work involving high hazard materials and activities
  • Identify and provide necessary safety supplies and personal protective equipment (PPE)
  • Discuss and reinforce safe work practices and PPE use, and provide coaching and disciplinary action as necessary
  • Conduct continuous inspection of the research space under the supervisor's control, and ensure that unsafe conditions are identified and corrected
  • Ensure that all accidents, injuries, and spills are reported to HSRM as soon as possible
  • Investigate laboratory incidents, identify root causes, and implement appropriate solutions in conjunction with HSRM personnel
  • Actively participate in safety improvement efforts
  • Provide initial and annual update training for lab workers regarding lab-specific hazards in their area and associated with their work
  • Maintain documentation of initial and annual training for all laboratory personnel
  • Objectively evaluate direct reports on their safety involvement and continuous improvement efforts
  • Leave facilities and equipment in a clean and safe condition when the premises are vacated


A laboratory employee is any person who will be actively working and conducting research in a University of Minnesota lab. Laboratory employees include: staff scientists, lab techs, postdoctoral researchers, graduate student workers, undergraduate student workers, and laboratory interns.

Employees who have significant responsibility for directing their own laboratory work are responsible for ensuring that potential hazards of specific projects have been identified and addressed before work is started. All laboratory employees however, are responsible to:

  • Complete required safety training
  • Read, understand, and follow all safety rules and best practices that apply to the work areas
  • Follow safe work practices applicable to the procedures being carried out
  • Actively identify, report, implement, and make suggestions for safety improvements
  • Ensure required safety precautions are in place before work is started
  • Follow University lab dress code and wear personal protective equipment required for procedures
  • Notify supervisor, safety committee member, or HSRM of any unsafe work practices, accidents, spills, or conditions that may warrant further investigation and/or monitoring

Health, Safety, and Risk Management (HSRM)

The University establishes safety management systems to reduce the risk of avoidable injuries and enhance regulatory compliance. They also assist Colleges and Departments in continuous safety improvement efforts. HSRM is responsible to:

  • Develop centralized processes and safety management systems to assist Colleges and Departments to fulfill their safety responsibilities.
  • Provide technical resources and expertise to Colleges and Departments to help facilitate continuous safety improvement.
  • Conduct periodic inspections and audits to verify implementation of safety management systems and safe work practices.
  • Maintain written safety performance expectations and guidance in the form of a Chemical Hygiene Plan or other written materials.
  • Provide educational information and training assistance to departments and colleges relative to hazard identification and safe work practice.
  • Participate on and provide guidance to safety committees or other safety improvement mechanisms. 
  • Identify and share best practices across departments and colleges.