Date: Wed, 20 Apr 2011 08:42:55 -0400
Reply-To: DCHAS-L Discussion List <DCHAS-L**At_Symbol_Here**LIST.UVM.EDU>
Sender: DCHAS-L Discussion List <DCHAS-L**At_Symbol_Here**LIST.UVM.EDU>
From: Ralph Stuart <rstuartcih**At_Symbol_Here**ME.COM>
Subject: safety culture in academia & industry
From: Russ Phifer 
Re: safety culture in academia & industry

I really appreciated Mike Wright's perspective on this issue. I too get to
see safety from both perspectives, since I have clients in both industry and
academia. Mike is correct that academia CAN get it right if they provide
their safety professionals and faculty with the time, resources and
authority to do so. Some of the safest "workplaces" I know are those schools
that have the support of their administration to make safety a priority. The
other side is. an accident waiting to happen. The best example I can give is
of the college that asked me to review the chemical hygiene plan for their
chemistry department. I suggested that once the plan was revised and final
that my contact take the plan to the college President to have it signed, to
show her support for the Department's safety efforts. The President refused,
saying that it was a human resources issue and that someone from that office
should sign the plan. This is despite the university's claim to be
"committed to the high standards of quality in promoting a safe and
problem-free educational environment". If actions speak louder than words,
then this school is an accident waiting to happen.

The corollary is industrial facilities that don't give their safety
professionals the authority to enforce safety rules. One facility where I
work, for example, refuses to require supervisors to wear appropriate eye
protection when in the plant. What kind of example does that set, when a
worker can be written up for a safety violation and a supervisor on the same
floor can't? It will take a supervisor getting hurt before that changes. 

The best facilities, and the safest ones, are those that recognize the value
of a strong safety culture and realize that while safety is not a profit
center, it affects the bottom line in many ways. There is a reason safety
consultants and trainers get many of their new clients after an accident, or
an inspection with violations. but by then the damage has already been done
in terms of injury, death, financial harm and/or a public relations

We recognize the value of preventive medicine in our lives; why do so many
academic and industrial facilities not recognize the value of preventive
safety measures?


Russ Phifer
WC Environmental, LLC
1085C Andrew Drive
West Chester, PA  19380
610-696-9220x12/ fax 610-344-7519
Cell - 610-322-0657

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