...Beyond initial meetings and verbally setting expectations, PIs follow up with their groups in different ways. One approach is to stay aware of the experiments people are doing and use the opportunity to discuss experimental techniques. “The first time someone is going to use sodium metal, I’ll talk with them about different ways of handling it,” says Craig A. Merlic, a chemistry professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, and chair of his department’s safety committee.
Some professors make students write out an experimental protocol or emergency response plan. “Especially if they’re a first-year graduate student, I’ll tell them to write out for me a plan for waste disposal and what they’ll do if they spill to make sure they’re aware of the hazards,” says Scott E. Denmark, a chemistry professor at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, who is leading an effort to improve his department’s safety culture.
And some faculty do experiments with students one-on-one. “I’m very much a mother hen at least for the first couple of months. I go through every single procedure in the lab with my students,” says [Texas Tech professor] Casadonte, who chairs his department’s safety committee.
Even PIs who aren’t as hands-on as Casadonte keep vigil over their labs. “I stick my head in everybody’s hood when I go through the lab,” Denmark says. If he sees a setup he doesn’t like or someone using glassware with a broken edge, he’ll discuss it with them. He also makes sure everyone is wearing lab coats, eye protection, and other protective wear, and he will flag things like a solvent bottle sitting on the floor.
In Danheiser’s department, that awareness extends beyond his own lab. At MIT, the organic chemistry labs have glass walls along the corridor. If he or another faculty member walking the halls spies someone without a lab coat or eye protection, they’ll often knock on a window or go in to discuss the matter, Danheiser says...Personally, I think pointed comments from The Boss (whoever they are) are pretty effective in making sure that safety rules are followed. Read the whole thing!