Chemical Safety | July 14, 2008 Issue - Vol. 86 Issue 28 | Chemical & Engineering News
Volume 86 Issue 28 | p. 47
Issue Date: July 14, 2008

Chemical Safety

Encouraging safe practices is this group’s top priority
Department: ACS News
Credit: Molly Phifer
Credit: Molly Phifer

AT C&EN, we scrutinize every lab photo that we consider running in the magazine, checking to make sure that everyone pictured is wearing proper eye protection.

We owe our vigilance in part to the American Chemical Society’s Committee on Chemical Safety (CCS), which champions safe practices in the chemical enterprise.

“The committee has been the eyes and ears of the society in terms of anything relating to chemical safety,” says Russell W. Phifer, chair of CCS and president of environment consulting firm WC Environmental in West Chester, Pa. “We’re developing a culture of chemical safety within the society.”

Created in 1963, the committee convened for the first time during the 145th ACS national meeting in New York City. Today, the committee not only encourages safe practices but also advises and counsels chemical professionals on the proper handling of chemicals. In addition, the committee develops educational materials, provides guidance to the general public on chemical safety, and works with other ACS and professional groups to obtain and disseminate chemical safety information.

The committee publishes a number of brochures and safety manuals, including “Safety in Academic Chemistry Laboratories,” which is in its seventh edition. This latest edition contains two volumes, one aimed at college and university undergraduate students and another for faculty and administrators. Altogether, the seven editions account for approximately 800,000 copies of the manual currently in print.

Committee On Chemical Safety At-A-Glance


Russell W. Phifer, vice president of WC Environmental

E-mail Address


(800)227-5558 ext. 4599


14 full members, four associate members, four consultants, four liaisons, one ACS staff liaison


Joint Board-Council Committee


Partnerships, Resources, Safe Practices

Task Forces

Task Force on Laboratory Chemical & Waste Management;


Established by the ACS Board of Directors in 1963

Other CCS publications include the “Chemical Safety Manual for Small Businesses,” 2nd ed.; “Safety in the Elementary (K–6) Science Classroom”; and “Chemical Safety for Teachers and Their Supervisors, Grades 7–12.” Copies of all publications can be downloaded for free from CCS’s website ( The committee also distributes “Think Safety!” bracelets, meant to remind chemical professionals to put safety first.

Working to stay relevant, the committee recently published a security vulnerability checklist for academic and small chemical laboratory facilities and is delving into the emerging field of nanotechnology. “Eventually, you’ll see some documents from us regarding how nanomaterials should be handled,” Phifer says.

CCS has had a number of significant achievements, including helping to remove restrictions concerning the wearing of contact lenses in chemical laboratories. The committee also pushed for a greater emphasis on laboratory safety in the 2008 ACS Guidelines & Evaluation Procedures for Bachelor’s Degree Programs, the standards ACS uses to approve baccalaureate chemistry programs.

The committee’s three subcommittees initiate CCS’s programs and services. The Partnerships Subcommittee focuses on existing and potential liaisons with other organizations inside and outside ACS. This subcommittee also considers how to expand the use of CCS information beyond the society’s membership.

The Resources Subcommittee works on larger publications and long-range educational projects. For example, it is producing a PowerPoint version of a video series called “Starting with Safety,” which will be made available on the committee website.

The Safe Practices Subcommittee works on short, timely projects and develops policy statements for review by CCS and the ACS Board of Directors. For example, it is developing a list of chemical reagents that should not be used or stored in secondary schools.

CCS also oversees the CCS Task Force on Laboratory Chemical & Waste Management (previously the Task Force on Laboratory Environment, Health & Safety), whose primary focus is on laboratory waste management and associated regulations.

In addition, CCS works closely with various departments in ACS. These include the Office of Legislative & Government Affairs (OLGA), the ACS Education Division, the Committee on Environmental Improvement (CEI), the Chemical Education Division (CHED), and the Committee on Professional Training (CPT).

Marta Gmurczyk, ACS staff liaison to CCS, says one challenge the committee faces is raising awareness about the resources it offers. She hopes the situation will improve as the committee collaborates with more groups inside and outside ACS.

The committee meets twice a year, during the spring and fall ACS national meetings. During the ACS national meeting in Philadelphia in August, the committee is organizing a symposium cosponsored by the Division of Chemical Health & Safety and CHED. Aimed at high school teachers who want to better manage chemical risk and disposal, the symposium will take place on Sunday, Aug. 17, from 1 to 4 PM. For more information, visit

Chemical & Engineering News
ISSN 0009-2347
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