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Comment: ACS chemical safety—Many faces, one voice

by Samuella Sigmann, chair, ACS Committee on Chemical Safety
November 13, 2022 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 100, Issue 40


Samuella Sigmann.
Credit: Appalachian State University
Samuella Sigmann

The American Chemical Society strives to be an information leader in all realms of chemistry, including chemical safety education. Within ACS, many groups work to advance safety education, and there are numerous opportunities to be involved as an advocate for teaching and practicing safer chemistry while learning new pedagogies. Navigating ACS to find chemical safety resources and professional development opportunities can be challenging, and I hope to flatten the learning curve.

In 2005, I agreed to chair the safety committee in an academic chemistry department. I had recently received an email from ACS announcing an opportunity nearby in chemical safety professional development. Attending an in-person short course called Laboratory Safety and Health was my first experience with safety in ACS. That course led me to realize that memorizing a list of rules was not chemical safety education, and I was inspired to advocate for teaching and assessing knowledge of chemical safety in my department.

When I became a member of ACS, I joined the Division of Chemical Health and Safety (CHAS). CHAS offered the networking and educational opportunities I was looking for, especially through its Listserv. CHAS has members from industry, academia, national laboratories, private business, and, most recently, chemistry graduate students—all engaged in the division’s activities. CHAS is the primary ACS unit responsible for technical programming at the spring and fall meetings in all areas related to safety. The division also offers various professional development workshops throughout the year and organizes ACS Safety Webinars.

Within ACS, many groups work to advance safety education.

While networking in CHAS, I kept hearing about the ACS Committee on Chemical Safety (CCS). I learned more about the committee at their open meetings during the spring and fall ACS conferences. As stated in the society’s bylaws, CCS provides advice to other ACS units on matters related to chemical safety and health. It has produced a vast number of resources to strengthen and integrate chemical safety across the chemistry enterprise. Currently, groups within CCS are working to articulate issues of diversity, equity, inclusion, and respect that impact laboratory safety, define how safety education and safety training differ and the role of each in the curriculum, write a white paper on the importance of access to authoritative chemical safety information, and create a tip sheet to help laboratory workers make informed decisions about reproductive hazards. Also look for our updated ACS position statement Safety in Chemistry Enterprise in 2023.

To help coordinate safety efforts in the society, ACS established a managerial position for ACS safety programs in 2017. This office has produced two safety video series (one for high school students and one for undergrads), each with six videos, and an on-demand, 17-unit online foundational chemical safety course–free for all learners. A similar but shorter course for high school teachers on managing chemicals safely will be released at the end of 2022.

Although presented as separate entities, these groups have a lot of overlap. Many CCS associates and members also belong to CHAS. ACS safety programs and publications include subject-matter experts (SMEs) from both groups. Where you first become involved with safety in ACS often depends on the information or expertise you are seeking. For example:

Do you need to learn more about incorporating chemical safety education into the undergraduate curriculum? CCS has compiled a list of learning objectives for safety competencies in Guidelines for Chemical Laboratory Safety.

Do you want to include safety programming at your local or regional level? If so, both CHAS and ACS safety programs can provide limited financial support or help locate SMEs to assist you.

Do you need to learn more about all the chemical safety resources available? Visit the ACS Center for Lab Safety or download a concise catalog describing the ACS resources that support safety education and practice at RAMP Up Chemical Safety.

Do you need to assess your students’ chemical safety knowledge? A standardized chemical safety exam, CS19, can be purchased from ACS Exams.

Does your organization want to implement standardized training for students? ACS Publications has online courses for institutions that integrate with learning management systems. Check out its offerings at Digital Learning Solutions.

Do you want to be more engaged with ACS governance? If you want to share your passion for chemical safety and be part of the paradigm shift at ACS, make sure to include the CCS when filling out your committee preference form in the spring.

No matter where in ACS you start learning about chemical safety, you will find a consistent message encouraging the development of a risk-based program using the RAMP (recognize, assess, minimize, and prepare for emergencies) management system in your curriculum, from high school to graduate school. You will also find engaged communities eager to share their vast expertise and commitment to making chemistry safer for all. Please connect with us at

Views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of C&EN or ACS.


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