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Patrick TruesdellWhat is your position at UNC-Chapel Hill, and how long have you been associated with the University?

I am a chemical safety specialist, and I have been with Environment, Health and Science (EHS) for nearly five years. I have been associated with the University since 2013, when I began pursuing my bachelors’ in geology and geography.

How did you initiate your career in the chemical safety field or how did you get into chemical safety?

I started my career in environmental consulting before coming back to UNC-Chapel Hill to work in the hazardous waste and chemical safety sections at EHS. I am grateful to be working in a field that has a positive impact on the Carolina community.

Which sectors of the University does your role impact, and in what ways does it contribute to fostering a safer work environment?

Our team is fortunate to interact with a diverse range of researchers and students on campus. I love helping the community foster a safer work environment from the moment a new principal investigator starts creating a laboratory safety plan to when a researcher closes out their lab.

Describe what you love most about your job in chemical safety and what has been most interesting to you in the job?

The part of the safety field I love most is investigating accidents and near-misses. I feel compassion for both injured people and people with wounded pride. I enjoy empathizing with folks without assigning blame and problem-solving solutions to prevent harm from occurring in the future.

What advice do you have for those in laboratories that are interested in creating a safer culture and environment?

My advice to those in laboratories who want to cultivate a safer workplace is to be mindful that “to err is human.” Mistakes are an inevitable product of human psychology, but a safe work environment has well-designed systems to prevent our mistakes from causing harm. Part of safety culture is giving people the space and confidence to voice questions, share lived experiences and acknowledge their own shortcomings in order to continuously improve processes and practices.