Compliance officers help keep university safe
Ensuring that lab practices are safe at ASU may not seem that important, until something goes wrong. ASU compliance officers work within their departments to encourage safe practices at the university everywhere from laboratories to administrative offices.
Their efforts were honored at the ASU Environmental Health & Safety Compliance Officer breakfast that was held on Earth Day.
“This is an extremely important group to Arizona State University,” said Morgan R. Olsen, ASU executive vice president, treasurer and chief financial officer. He cited the university’s commitment to research, making ASU a “living laboratory” where researchers are able to work in an environment where reducing risk is paramount, training is encouraged and lab safety inspections are ongoing.
David Wright, a senior researcher with the LeRoy Eyring Center for Solid State Science, was recognized by the group of approximately 100 compliance officers at ASU. He received a commendation for developing and presenting a compressed gases safety program and helping to train research professionals in this area.
“I can’t express how important it is to feel safe in the lab and with the people you’re working with, and that the compliance officers are there to assist you,” Wright said.
Following safe practices is an integral part of working in a lab environment as a case that resulted in the death of a lab worker about a year ago at a major university illustrated. Michael Ochs, ASU Environmental Health & Safety manager, presented an overview of the accident that occurred with a pyrophoric material that ignited when it was exposed to air. The worker was seriously burned and died of her injuries two weeks later.
“She did not have a lab coat on. She had on a synthetic material that melted to her skin,” Ochs said.
After the incident, ASU inspected all labs containing pyrophoric agents, examined orders for similar materials, encouraged wearing proper protective apparel, updated training and performed follow-up inspections.
Safety statistics at ASU show a downward trend in injuries from 2005 to 2009 while research hours continue to rise. Slips, trips and falls are the most common injuries at the university, but these are rates are also declining.
“We’re much better than we were five year ago,” said Rob Ott, associate director of Occupational Health & Safety.
The drop in injury rates is largely due to the number of employees trained in areas such as fire and lab safety. As training participation continues to rise, injury rates are expected to stay low. EH&S Compliance Officers play a key role in facilitating training programs and keeping safety awareness at a high level.
Additional subjects that were discussed at the meeting included office safety, hazardous waste pick-up and how to handle issues such as a filthy office that needed to be addressed and cleaned.
Compliance officers who volunteer for their positions in addition to their regular jobs at the university consider the program beneficial to the university. EH&S director Leon Igras presented results of a compliance officer survey that showed that 80 percent considered training effective, 83 percent found the program to be effective and 65 percent have served as compliance officers for two years or more.
Training is an integral component of safety at the university. Fire safety training is required for every ASU employee. For additional information on lab, fire and office safety training, go to http://uabf.asu.edu/ehs_training.">http://uabf.asu.edu/ehs_training">http://uabf.asu.edu/ehs_training.