They are the people who check for lead in the walls and monitor radioactive materials so nobody leaves class glowing with anything other than happiness.
The University”s Occupational Safety and Environmental Health department is responsible for addressing the health, safety and environmental interactions on campus. The department monitors the disposal of hazardous materials and promotes the sharing of safety education and information in the University community.
OSEH Director Terrance Alexander said the organization exists primarily to make sure the University is in compliance with national Occupational Safety and Health Administration and environmental regulations but that working within the community is also an important part of the job.
“We”re doing a lot of programs that really move beyond regulatory compliance and try to be proactive and make things better,” Alexander said. “We have a lot of educational programs that we run, we do training in radiation, biology and chemistry safety for labs.”
Alexander also addressed OSEH”s willingness to work with student groups and answer questions anytime, saying OSEH would be more than happy to get involved if a group is interested in learning more.
“We”re here to provide the programs and help people do what they do safely, but it”s also everybody”s responsibility to work safely,” he said. “We”re there to help but everybody has to take some responsibility for it.”
OSEH oversees many campus programs, including radiation safety services to deal with radioactive materials and their disposal, an industrial hygiene program that works with the housing department on living quarters issues, sanitation programs that inspect food service facilities and environmental programs that analyze samples to ensure air, water and general living cleanliness.
Students have the opportunity to contribute on campus as well. They can get involved in OSEH”s diverse projects and gain hands-on work experience.
“We have students using all the equipment they”d be using in the work force,” Alexander said. “We had an engineering student working for us. He walked right into a nice job at an environmental consulting firm and he went in with experience.”
Being prepared to handle everything from biohazards to radioactive hazards definitely takes experience and training, said Laurie MacDonald, an OSEH representative. MacDonald oversees the handling of chemical waste for the chemistry department.
“If there were ever a chemical spill, we could deal with it,” MacDonald said. “But we really don”t get that many large spills to be concerned about.”
Patricia Watt, manager of OSEH”s Industrial Hygiene and Safety program, addresses problems like ergonomic difficulties in the workplace and pollution. Watt said teaching people how to use chemicals and generally follow safe practices is important to improving the academic environment.
“We”re basically charged to provide guidance and education to all University departments on health safety and environmental issues,” Watt said. “So we”re here to look at the challenges we might have in those areas and partner with University departments to find solutions that work for everyone.”