Safety Officer Diana Woolf Spreads the Word on Reducing Risk at Case Western


woolfThe College of Polymer Science and Polymer Engineering counts on Safety Officer Diana Woolf every day to make sure that students and faculty are working in safe environments. Since she has joined our staff she has worked hard to implement big changes on campus, and it has resulted in the prevention of numerous injuries and incidents. Now, Woolf will be sharing her knowledge with Case Western Reserve University (CWRU) in order to give their safety culture a jump-start.

As Safety Officer, Woolf’s job is to create a culture of safety within CPSPE, from improving incident reporting systems to training seminars to new safety policies and requirements. Several of Woolf’s implementations have saved students from serious harm.

“It is the impression around campus [that] CPSPE is the front runner on lab safety and we are leading the change on campus. I’m really proud of this,” Woolf said about the progress she has been making in campus-wide safety standards.

In fact, she has been doing such great work that she has garnered attention from other institutions. CWRU has heard about the significant changes in lab culture at UA, and they have invited Woolf to speak to students on campus. The seminar, which will take place on September 29th, will focus on attitudes toward personal safety in the lab. According to Woolf, “Changing attitudes in the safety culture of research labs is the biggest challenge for institutions to overcome.”

Since a lab accident at UCLA led to the death of a young researcher in 2009, universities have recognized the need to promote better safety. Changes like these can often be met with resistance, as new procedures can sometimes be time consuming or costly. Thus, the first step in reducing the risk of accidents is creating awareness and developing enthusiasm for safety.

Of course accidents are going to happen, but the goal is to reduce the risk. Woolf’s increase in safety glasses and lab coats has protected more than three students from exposure to chemicals or acid burn. Her “Shut the Sash” program has not only boosted efficiency, cutting energy costs, it has protected a student from serious injury after an explosive reaction occurred while he was working in the lab.

Although she may have experienced some resistance at first, Woolf’s methods are now widely appreciated by students. “The safety culture our students are exposed to helps them in their professional field,” she said. “They are already adjusted to work place safety rules and regulations. I have had several students send me emails or tell me when they are here for a visit, how it is so different in industry. They appreciated the higher standards we are implementing now that their job requires it.”

Thanks, Diana, for helping us reduce risk and stay safe every day!