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Emory EHSO leader selected for Task Force on Laboratory Safety

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Holly Korschun

The Association of Public and Land-grant Universities has formed a new Task Force on Laboratory Safety that will provide research universities with recommendations and guidance on the most appropriate strategies to enhance a culture of laboratory safety.

Patty Olinger, assistant vice president in the Emory University Office of Research Administration and executive director of the Emory Environmental Health and Safety Office (EHSO), is one of 13 members from U.S. universities on the new national task force.

The task force, which APLU created in coordination with the Association of American Universities (AAU), American Chemical Society (ACS), and Council on Government Relations (COGR), is comprised of senior research officers and environmental and health safety experts.

The task force will address the need of academic institutions to implement a culture of safety in their laboratories, establish standards of safety excellence and document and demonstrate their commitment to safety and compliance with local and national policies.

"I'm honored to be part of this very important task force. With the increase in scrutiny that our laboratories are experiencing, the ability to establish and demonstrate a "culture of safety," or as I prefer, "culture of responsibility," is going to become increasingly important," says Olinger. "It is exciting that university leaders around the country are coming together to take an active role in addressing this very important topic. This will help support the balance between scientific progress and a commitment to laboratory safety." 

The Emory EHSO has university-wide responsibility for all aspects of environmental, health and safety support, including biosafety and EHS compliance support to Emory Healthcare. Prior to joining Emory in 2006, Olinger, who is a Registered Biosafety Professional, spent 21 years in the pharmaceutical industry, providing support to both human and animal health models and developing a true One Health perspective, a concept that recognizes the health of humans is connected to the health of animals and the environment.

Olinger is the deputy convener of the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) Working Group for the ISO International Biorisk Management deliverable; the immediate past president of the Campus Safety Health and Environmental Management Association; and a member of the External Laboratory Safety Working Group to the Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. She is also a former council member of the American Biological Safety Association and former Scientific Advisory Board member of the National Institutes of Health National Biosafety and Biocontainment Training Program.

"The culture around lab and studio safety is integral to the responsible conduct of research and scholarly excellence," said Dr. Taylor Eighmy of the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, chair of the task force, and Dr. Mark McLellan of Utah State University, co-chair of the task force. "We are fortunate to have such a dedicated task force and support from APLU, AAU, COGR, and ACS."

The task force will meet in Washington, D.C. on May 6-7. For more information, view the complete APLU news release.

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