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Laboratory Safety Specialist

The University of Chicago, Physical Sciences Division
Chicago, Illinois
depending on experience and qualifications
Closing date
Apr 12, 2023

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About the Department

The Physical Sciences Division (PSD) has a rich history of advancing and defining new fields of discovery in the physical and mathematical sciences, and this tradition of innovation continues today. Our inquiry and impact spans from the edge of the observable universe to human-computer interaction, from biophysical materials science to the geologic record of seawater composition, from gravitational waves to geometric flows, and beyond. The division includes the academic departments of Astronomy and Astrophysics, Chemistry, Computer Science, Geophysical Sciences, Mathematics, Physics, and Statistics. In addition, PSD includes a number of interdisciplinary research institutes and centers, including the Data Science Institute, Enrico Fermi Institute, the James Franck Institute, and the Kavli Center for Cosmological Physics. Many of our scientists have joint appointments at the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory and Argonne National Laboratory as well as joint affiliations with other Chicago-based research institutions such as the Toyota Technological Institute of Chicago, and the Field Museum. Our students build connections with world-leading scientists, collaborate across disciplines, and enjoy the dynamic Chicago and University communities.

Job Summary

The Laboratory Safety Specialist (LSS) for the Physical Sciences Division is responsible for managing and providing technical guidance, training, and inspective/risk analysis of the PSD laboratory safety program to ensure a safe environment in which to facilitate research and the pursuit of academic excellence. Laboratory safety includes the delivery of safety services to all facilities involved in research for both laboratories and lab support areas.

In fulfilling these responsibilities, the LSS will liaise with the Office of Research Safety (ORS) on issues related to chemical, biological, radiological and laser safety, and work closely with Environmental Health and Safety (EHS) on life safety and environmental issues. The LSS provides input into divisional and University-wide research safety standards, policies, and procedures as a key member of the research safety community in addition to providing input on the allocation of roles and responsibilities for research safety between the ORS and the divisional Laboratory Safety Specialists. Working with division deans to develop and implement strategic initiatives to foster safety culture at all levels and all areas in PSD. The PSD LSS reports directly to the PSD Deputy Dean for Infrastructure and indirectly (dotted line) to the Associate VP for Research Safety. This position also works closely and in coordination with building managers within PSD, along with the PSD Director of Design and Construction.


  • Serves as the primary point of contact for PSD principal investigators (PI) and research teams and acts as a liaison for these PIs to ORS and EHS on research safety issues.

  • Stays abreast of any changes within the lab and builds a strong partnership with PIs and their research teams.

  • Collaborates with PIs and/or their delegates on a regular basis as a partner in addressing research safety needs, meeting as often as necessary to discuss research work performed, safety risks, training and safety material needs, and other measures to mitigate risk.

  • Works with PIs and department staff to assess the needs and procurement of safety equipment and supplies (e.g., personal protective equipment, hazardous materials) for assigned research teams and laboratory research operations.

  • Works with the ORS to identify training offerings and/or assists the PI in determining training elements that the PI will need to provide via team-specific training.

  • Works with PIs and/or their delegates to assess safety risk and develop appropriate safety controls for research experiments or procedures with significant safety risks with support from the ORS.

  • Demonstrates a regular presence in the laboratories, building a strong partnership with PIs and their research teams.

  • Provides research safety knowledge and support to departments, PIs, and respective research teams with support from the ORS.

  • Works with PSD administration and Facilities teams to establish and assess needs for capital projects and new lab construction/renovation.

  • Working with PSD and ORS, generates reports to provide detailed and actionable analysis of trends as needed.

  • Works with the ORS to monitor adherence compliance with training requirements and inform PIs about non-compliance.

  • In partnership with ORS representatives, and in collaboration with departmental personnel, conducts inspections of all research laboratories and lab support areas as determined by risk level for unsafe conditions and work practices. Recommends corrective actions and performs follow-up verification of deficiency correction status. Monitors implementation of controls and corrective actions.

  • Reviews and researches appropriate hazard control and mitigation strategies, including engineering controls, administrative controls, and personal protective equipment, and supports faculty and research support staff in the implementation of these control strategies.

  • In collaboration with ORS, conducts orientation training sessions with new PIs, staff, and incoming students, ensuring they understand their research safety roles and responsibilities and how to acquire required support.

  • Interfaces with EHS to determine non-laboratory specific training needs for the assigned laboratory areas and research teams and works with team members and the PI to ensure those requirements are met.

  • Serves on laboratory safety related committees and participates in departmental and campus-wide work groups to facilitate laboratory injury prevention, best fact practices, and lessons learned.

  • Identifies benchmarking metrics for laboratory safety and uses database technology and tracking systems to generate reports on a regular basis.

  • Participates as a member of the emergency response team including the rotation of On-Call Safety Officer and responds to emergency incidents.

  • Participates in the investigation of all research accidents/illnesses.

  • Works with research teams and ORS to develop systems and procedures for maintaining their laboratories’ chemical inventory and monitor status of records.

  • Develops recommendations to improve the overall laboratory safety management system including the tracking of chemical inventories, inspections, and laboratory assets.

  • Monitors overall safety compliance, including compliance of laboratory safety equipment (e.g., fire extinguishers, eyewash stations, fume hood certifications), and provides information and data to both the ORS and Environmental Health and Safety (EHS) in support of regulatory agency laboratory safety inspections.

  • Assists labs in maintaining training records in Environmental Health and Safety Assistant (EHSA) or other data management software in a timely manner, for the purposes of access to secure labs and other areas.

  • Runs Provides lead support to the JRSI program for the PSD in concert with PME & ORS.

  • With a moderate level of guidance, interprets University environmental health and safety standards to assist in the design and implementation of programs. Ensures legal compliance and develops procedures. Monitors and evaluates health and safety concerns.

  • Plans and executes surveys, audits, and inspections of instruments, laboratories, and other facilities to ensure compliance with government and University policies and procedures. Analyzes data and initiatives immediate corrective action plans and follow-up to ensure implementation.

  • Performs risk analysis on the University's environmental and occupational health and safety programs and implements alternatives or improvements to current programs.

  • Performs other related work as needed.

Minimum Qualifications


Minimum requirements include a college or university degree in related field.

Work Experience:

Minimum requirements include knowledge and skills developed through 2-5 years of work experience in a related job discipline.


Driver's License - Multiple States

Preferred Qualifications


  • Bachelor’s or Master’s degree in STEM field.


  • Experience with live cell cultures, human tissue, animal husbandry.

  • Experience in a laboratory or related industry (chemical manufacturing, biotechnology, pharmaceuticals, research laboratory, etc.).

  • Competence in electrical safety matters, particularly in a research setting.

  • Knowledge of safety issues related to the operation of overhead cranes and fall protection.

  • Knowledge of federal, state, and local environmental health and safety codes, regulations, and ordinances.

  • Knowledge of basic principles of laboratory safety and chemical hazards, cryogens, lasers.

  • Experience in Chemical Hygiene/laboratory safety practices.

Licenses and Certifications:

  • Relevant certifications (e.g., Hazardous Materials Technician or higher classification, certified safety professional, certified industrial hygienist, safety management certificate, qualification in laboratory safety).

Preferred Competencies

  • Must be detail oriented and able to prepare documents and/or reports as necessary.

  • Ability to maintain professionalism, credibility and good service delivery practices when dealing with all contacts, internal and external.

  • Ability to remain calm and objective throughout stressful and unpleasant situations. Willingness and ability to make timely, sound decisions and accept concomitant responsibility.

  • Ability to communicate effectively and consistently with others using tact when necessary.

  • Ability to manage sensitive emergency situations.

  • Ability to establish and maintain effective working relationships with the general public and members of the University community.

  • Ability to work with people of various ages and backgrounds and with diverse constituencies, including students, parents, faculty, and staff in the University and the Medical Center.

  • Ability and skill to build consensus and credibility across the campus.

  • Ability to resolve conflicts and manage sensitive emergency situations appropriately.

  • Demonstrated self-restraint in challenging and/or difficult situations.

  • Ability to mentally and physically react effectively, quickly, calmly, and rationally during times of conflicts and emergencies.

  • Proven ability to communicate effectively with a wide range of constituencies.

  • High level of writing and presentation skills for both groups and one on one.

  • Knowledge of Microsoft Windows, Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Outlook.

  • Ability to synthesize complex material to assist decision-making and to communicate priorities.

  • Ability to manage multiple tasks and competing priorities simultaneously.

  • Considerable skill in working both independently and as part of a team.

  • Demonstrated outstanding written, verbal, analytical and interpersonal skills.

  • Knowledge in electrical safety issues is highly desired.

Working Conditions

  • Some on-call work including nights, weekends, holidays as necessary.

Application Documents

  • Resume (required)

  • Cover Letter (preferred)

When applying, the document(s) MUST be uploaded via the My Experience page, in the section titled Application Documents of the application.

Job Family Legal & Regulatory Affairs
Role Impact Individual Contributor
FLSA Status Exempt
Pay Frequency Monthly
Scheduled Weekly Hours 37.5
Benefits Eligible Yes
Drug Test Required No
Health Screen Required No
Motor Vehicle Record Inquiry Required No
Posting Statement

Employees must comply with the University’s COVID-19 vaccination requirements. More information about the requirements can be found on the University of Chicago Vaccination GoForward.

The University of Chicago is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity/Disabled/Veterans Employer and does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, national or ethnic origin, age, status as an individual with a disability, protected veteran status, genetic information, or other protected classes under the law. For additional information please see the University's Notice of Nondiscrimination.

Staff Job seekers in need of a reasonable accommodation to complete the application process should call 773-702-5800 or submit a request via Applicant Inquiry Form.

We seek a diverse pool of applicants who wish to join an academic community that places the highest value on rigorous inquiry and encourages a diversity of perspectives, experiences, groups of individuals, and ideas to inform and stimulate intellectual challenge, engagement, and exchange.

All offers of employment are contingent upon a background check that includes a review of conviction history.  A conviction does not automatically preclude University employment.  Rather, the University considers conviction information on a case-by-case basis and assesses the nature of the offense, the circumstances surrounding it, the proximity in time of the conviction, and its relevance to the position.

The University of Chicago's Annual Security & Fire Safety Report (Report) provides information about University offices and programs that provide safety support, crime and fire statistics, emergency response and communications plans, and other policies and information. The Report can be accessed online at: Paper copies of the Report are available, upon request, from the University of Chicago Police Department, 850 E. 61st Street, Chicago, IL 60637.

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