Lab safety is not the first thing to come to mind when you read about new scientific findings in the news, but it is an integral part of the scientific process. Lab safety not only informs how data is collected, processed, and analyzed, safety protocols allow us to feel comfortable and secure in our work environment. As a scientist, the first thing a lot of us think of when we hear about lab safety is a few online courses and some cheesy instructional videos. But lab safety is much more than that.

CNPRC’s safety officer, Gregory Hodge, was recently awarded University of California Davis’s Safety Star Award for his outstanding work. Greg was nominated by his friend and colleague, Jim Baugh, the associate biosafety officer for UC Davis’ Environmental Health and Safety department. At the California National Primate Research Center, safety is integral to the production of scientific discoveries. Keeping 4,000+ animals and the many people working on site safe is no small feat.

One of the most pertinent examples of Greg’s work came to light last year when a brush fire caught just yards away from the center. In 15 minutes, Greg had successfully evacuated over 300 people. Thanks to Greg’s consistent efforts faculty, students, and staff all knew exactly what to do in the event of a fire. With the center evacuated and everyone accounted for the firemen and women were able focus all of their attention on keeping the center, and the animals remaining its gates, safe.

I asked Greg a few questions about his job as CNPRC’s safety officer:

What do you like most about your work as a safety officer?
CNPRC is a tight knit community, so I greatly enjoy my daily interactions with all the people here.  Given the novel research that occurs at CNPRC, I appreciate all the unique challenges this brings.  My day to day activities are never dull.

What are some of the hardest parts of your job?
The hardest part of my job is addressing incidents that were preventable.  However, I can take these lessons learns to identify gaps in training or policy.

What are some examples of your contributions to CNPRC’s scientific discoveries?
Over the last year I’m particularly proud of the collaboration with campus facilities, safety services, the research team and CNPRC primate service to bring an underutilized ABSL3 facility online for a vaccine project.  I’ve also collaborated with CNPRC Faculty and Campus Veterinary Services to develop new transport procedures for infectious non-human primate research projects providing access to previously unavailable imaging technologies.

Why do you choose to work at a primate center?
This ties in closely to what I like most about my job and that is the people and the unique challenges.  My top priority is the safety of all the staff and students.  A safe work environment is the first step in ensuring the success of the work that happens at CNPRC.

Written by Logan Savidge