The University of Iowa

Rewards and Recognition Program

Rewards and Recognition for University Faculty, Staff and Students Creating a Strong Culture of Safety

Principal Investigators, laboratory staff, and students should be recognized for demonstrating a constructive and proactive safety culture. EHS has developed a rewards and recognition program to show our commitment in recognizing these individuals.  This is a new program and implementation will begin in January 2020.


Excellence in Safety Award certificate

Research Lab Eligibility

All laboratories and associated staff that are reviewed by EHS’s Safety Advisor Team are eligible for the awards described below and are automatically evaluated as part of this program. Nominations will also be accepted from the research community for the Individual and Innovation Awards as discussed below.

Criteria for review

  • Performance on annual safety reviews and laboratory safety rounds. Labs with no deficiencies or those with few deficiencies that are corrected will receive favorable ratings.
  • Prompt, appropriate response and implementation of corrective actions, where applicable.
  • Collaboration with EHS and departmental Health & Safety Coordinators to resolve concerns and unsafe conditions. Labs will NOT be penalized for reporting incidents or spills. 
  • Engagement in safety and demonstrating initiative to improve the lab safety culture among lab personnel.
  • Innovations and exceptional performance in safety practices and culture.



Research laboratories will be assessed and rated. Up to 10 labs will be recognized for their Excellence in Safety with one lab receiving the Top Prize for outstanding performance among the recognized labs. Safety advisors will submit nominations to the Laboratory Safety Committee in March 2021 from the prior calendar year; the committee will choose award winners with announcements made in May 2021.  Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this award has been postponed; assessments will begin in January 2021 and awarded in 2022.



A formal recognition award will be issued to laboratory safety leaders through a nomination and selection process. Submission of the Individual Nomination Form and a description of how the individual’s actions have positively impacted laboratory safety is required. Nominations will be accepted on a continuing basis. The Laboratory Safety Committee will choose award winners at the end of each term (spring, summer, and fall) with announcements made shortly thereafter.


Innovation in Safety

This award is to recognize Principal Investigators and research staff for their dedication to the safe conduct of research and who demonstrate a shared commitment with EHS. The innovation will significantly improve laboratory safety and have the potential for sustainability (example, new process that could be used across labs within the University). Details about the award and nomination process is available on the Office of the Vice President for Research (OVPR) website.



Laboratory/Group Award

 All awarded laboratories will receive the following:

  • Article published in the Office of the Vice President for Research Newsletter and EHS’s SAFETYmatters; the article will be submitted to other news outlets for consideration.
  • Excellence in Safety certificate signed by the Vice President for Research and EHS Director
  • Listing on OVPR’s Safety Awards

Top prize for outstanding performance: celebratory event (ex. luncheon party) for the laboratory.


Individual Award

Recognition Award: Excellence in Safety certificate will be awarded along with a listing on OVPR’s Safety Awards.


Innovation in Safety Award

  • A prize of $1,000 and a commemorative gift.
  • Recipients will be recognized formally at the Celebrating Excellence: The University of Iowa Discovery & Innovation Awards Ceremony that highlights research and innovation achievements.


Excellence in Safety Award certificate

Teaching Lab Eligibility

All undergraduate teaching courses associated with a wet laboratory session that are reviewed by EHS’s Safety Advisor Team are eligible for the award described below and are automatically evaluated as part of this program. Each semester, departmental administration in the Departments of Chemistry, Biology, Microbiology, Engineering, and Physics will be contacted for a list of teaching labs with instructor and teaching assistant (TA) names.

Criteria for review

  • Laboratory protocols and corresponding safety information (e.g. hazard assessments) for the week of review
  • Each TA will be viewed by EHS staff during a laboratory course (generally between weeks 4 and 8) on the following:
    • Engagement of the TA in safety oversight;
    • Appropriate dress of students: PPE, long hair tied back, close-toed shoes, etc;
    • Not wearing PPE outside of the laboratory;
    • Good work stations and practices (not reaching over a burner);
    • Labeling of solutions, bottles;
    • Storage of chemicals and personal items (phones put away); and
    • Accessible safety equipment (fire extinguisher, eyewashes), as appropriate.
    • Lab manager endorsement/interview.
  • Labs will not receive deficiencies; however, if a significant safety concern is noted, the EHS safety advisor will discuss the issue with the TA, course instructor, and laboratory manager.


Teaching labs will be assessed by department with each lab’s rating weighed against those within their department. The top TA(s) in each department will be recognized for their Excellence in Safety.


TAs will be provided an Excellence in Safety certificate along with a letter of recognition from EHS and be listed on OVPR’s Safety Awards. Safety advisors will submit nominations to the Laboratory Safety Committee by the 8th week of classes; the committee will choose award winners with announcements made shortly thereafter.