Campus Safety Challenges

© istock.com/sshepard

By Jonathan Klane

ASSE’s Management Practice Specialty has started a Campus Safety Committee to facilitate opportunities for OSH professionals who work on some type of campus to connect. Jonathan Klane, who chairs the committee, wanted to try a different approach to explaining the range of challenges encountered in these environments. His post follows.


The Challenge

“I bet you can’t,” Max challenged.

“What?” I replied.  

“You heard me. I said I bet you can’t do it,” Max repeated. “Well?”

“I’m thinking,” I said, stalling for time.

“C’mon,” Max insisted. “Yes or no?”

“Okay, I’ll do it. Five short stories, right?”

“Yep. Five different stories all illustrating a campus safety challenge. And one each on the five different campus types--academia, medical, research, high tech and large ones," Max said. "Convince me."

“Okay, here goes.”


Academia: “Why not?”

“Look, I know they’re not covered by OSHA. That’s not my point,” Chris said.

“Chris, we’re in EHS. Our mission is to ensure regulatory compliance,” Jamie insisted.

Chris cast a pained looked at Jamie, “I know. But why can’t we also do this?”

Jamie quickly countered. “It's not being part of our mission and we don’t have capacity.”

“But it’s just a handful of students,” Chris retorted.

“Undergrads,” Jamie responded. “And as they’re not paid employees, they’re not covered by OSHA.”

“True,” Chris admitted. “But really we’re talking about fewer than 10 students.”

“Ten now, but we have thousands of undergrads,” Jamie countered.

“Yes, but there aren’t thousands who need or want to wear a respirator,” Chris said. “Just seven or eight. And they need to be fit tested.”

“I understand your desire to help our students, Chris, I even admire it,” Jamie admitted. “But our administration has decided that we are not equipped to serve our nonregulated students. We are challenged enough with our regulated groups. Our attorneys have said that we take on liability when we go outside of our stated areas.”

“Well, it seems to me that the liability is greater to not provide fit testing,” Chris said. “What if a respirator doesn’t properly fit? What if little Billy or Sally student gets sick because of a poorly fitting respirator? Isn’t that even more liability? What would we tell their parents?”

Jamie paused. “All right, Chris, maybe it’s time to revisit this. Let’s go meet with the powers that be. Okay?”

Chris smiled. “Absolutely!”


Medical Center: “But, we just need . . .”

“I don’t care who requires it. You are not putting that contraption on me.”

“But Dr. Pense, we have to do annual monitoring for the anesthetic gases,” Kelly insisted.

“Doesn’t matter. It will interfere with surgery. It’s not going into the OR--and neither are you.”

“I understand. I really do,” Kelly said, trying to calm the waters.

“Do you?” Dr. Pense asked.  

“Yes, I do. If I were the patient or my loved one was, I wouldn’t want any distractions either,” Kelly said calmly. “Nor any sources of an infection.”

“Then we agree,” Dr. Pense said as his expression softened.

“We do, but the government requires us to test your exposures,” Kelly repeated.

Dr. Pense looked at the pump, tubing and glass tube. “With all that equipment?”

“Well, they do make small sample badges we might be able to use.”

“Tell me about these badges.”

“They’re smaller than a half dollar and clip to your scrubs. They come sealed from the factory. No motor or tubing either.”

“Get me the technical data sheet on it and then we’ll discuss it.”

“You got it, Dr. Pense!”


Research Institution: “I won’t tell you!”

“Nope, you won’t get it from me–no way,” Alex said.

Dana stared back blankly, “But we have to include the data.”

“No, we don’t. I’ve been down this road before. We just say ‘proprietary ingredients’ and call it good.”   

“Sure, OSHA allows us to put ‘proprietary ingredients’ on the SDS,” Dana admitted.

“Great, then my intellectual property will remain protected, right?” Alex said.

“Well, the SDS can say that. But we have to still have the actual chemical ingredients and hazard data on file in case an ER doctor or poison control toxicologist were to call for treatment guidance.”

“Even as a nationally funded research lab?”

“Yes, even as a federal research lab. We still have to provide hazard data to help treat a patient,” Dana explained.

“If it’s for an actual patient, that’s a different story,” Alex agreed. “Alright, so tell me how you will protect my patented material from others?”

“Happy to explain!”


High Tech: “How about we do it this way . . .”

“We have decided that we will write our own safety policies,” Morgan said.

“What?” Cortney asked, having been caught a bit off guard.

“We all talked and we will come up with our own safety rules.”

“Really? Why is that?” Cortney asked with genuine curiosity.

“As software designers, we develop our own rules on how our systems operate. So, it just makes sense that we should also create our own safety rules.”

“But that’s not exactly what I meant when I said that we had to write a new safety policy,” Cortney countered.

Morgan shrugged, “No matter, we’ve got you covered.  All set then?”

“I’m sure we’re good. Mind if I read through?”

 “You bet.” 


Large Campus: “How many do you have?”

Reed looked over at Taylor’s group. “How many?”

Taylor looked around then yelled back. “22 here! You?”

Reed counted again, “17 so far.”

Taylor frowned, “Missing some?”

“Yeah, we should have 19 so we’re down two. You guys all set?”

“Yep, all accounted for,” Taylor replied, nodding in the opposite direction. “Same for Jean’s group, all 13 of them.”

“Have you reported in yet?” Taylor asked.

“I’m waiting for someone to ask me for my count. Or for my two unaccounted visitors to mysteriously appear.”

“What, like with David Copperfield or something?” Taylor kidded.

“Ha!” Reed chuckled. “I’ll take Professor Hinkle from Frosty if he could make my two magically appear.”

Morgan laughed, then looked serious. “Someone’s coming Reed.”

Reed turned to look. “Hi, what’s up?”

“How many do you have?”   

“Only 17 of my 19. We’re missing our two visitors.”

“No we’re not. They showed up on the opposite side of your building. They evacuated via their closest exit and joined the first group they spotted. We are all good.”

Reed relaxed. “Thank goodness! That’s the best news I’ve gotten all day.”


Join In

As I concluded my last story, Max just stared at me.

“So, how'd I do?”

Max smiled. “Not bad, not bad at all. Five stories, all different and one for each type of campus. And compelling, too.”

“What’s your decision?” I pressed.

“I’m in. I’ll join.”

“Great! Welcome to ASSE’s Management Practice Specialty Campus Safety Committee.”


Jonathan Klane, M.S.Ed., CSP, CIH, CHMM, CET, is chair of the Campus Safety Committee within ASSE’s Management Practice Specialty. To join or to learn more, contact him at jonathan.klane@asu.edu or (480) 965-8498. (Maybe he’ll tell you a story, or you can tell him one.) 


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