The Occupational Health and Safety section welcomed new staff in 2022. On June 3rd James Blum joined the team as an Occupational Health and Safety Specialist 2. His areas of responsibility include: Asbestos and Regulated Building Materials, Indoor Air Quality/Mold, Workplace Safety Inspections and Safety/Awareness Training. Todd Gianetti started on December 2nd as an Occupational Health and Safety Specialist 1. Todd’s areas of responsibility include: Workplace Safety Inspections, Safety/Awareness Training and Industrial Hygiene Surveys and Assessments.
We are very happy to have them on board and look forward to their valuable contributions to the EHS team and the work of the department.
July 2022 saw the retirement of three longtime EHS staff members. Occupational Health and Safety Specialist Dennis Demers, Program Support Specialist Diane Bolduc and EHS Director Terri Dominguez. Dennis joined the department in 2002 conducting safety inspections and annual respirator fit testing. Diane has been with the department since 2004 supporting our training and outreach programs and conducting ergonomic assessments. Terri began her career at UConn in 1992 when she was hired as the Occupational Health and Safety Manager. She held this position until 2010 when she was appointed as the Manager of Occupational Health and Safety and EHS Administrative Services. In 2015 Terri was appointed as the Interim Director of Environmental Health and Safety, becoming permanent in 2016. We thank them for their steadfast dedication and camaraderie over the years and wish them all the best in their retirement.
Thankfully, they were all amenable to staying on beyond their official retirement date to help us with the transition.
We are proud to announce the official launch of our new safety management system,HuskySMS, powered by BioRAFT. This new system replaces multiple current EHS tools, making HuskySMS your one stop shop for:
EHS Safety Training
o Employee Safety Training Assessments (ESTA)
o Training Registration and Records
o Online Training Access and Completion
o COVID-19 Training Confirmations and Certificates
o Communication with EHS
Training Reminders are Back
Beginning this week, you may see emails communicating that new safety training requirements have been assigned to you in the system or reminders that you have safety training due dates coming up soon. Emails that come from BioRAFT, @bioraft.com, are automated messages from HuskySMS. Emails that come from your EHS team members using HuskySMS will be listed as vendor emails, NAME@vendor.edu. These are NOT junk mail or spam. They are information about your safety compliance from your Environmental Health and Safety team.
October 18, 2018, Chief Hans Rhynhart, Associate Vice President and Chief of Police, publicly welcomed the Division of Environmental Health and Safety (EHS) to the Division of University Safety team. This acknowledgement was part of the annual Division of University Safety Promotions and Recognition Ceremony. Staff from all UConn campuses committed to keeping UConn a safe place to work, research, and learn filled the University Safety Complex for the event, a short pause in the day to celebrate professional accomplishments, new talent, and emerging opportunities.
The UConn Police/Fire Honor Guard opened the ceremonies with the presentation of the colors and national anthem. In addition to Chief Rhynhart, honored speakers included Master Sergeant Gerald Post, Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer Scott Jordan, and Fire Chief William Perez. In addition to EHS, staff were recognized from the Office of Emergency Management, the Fire Marshal and Building Inspectors Office, the Police Department, UConn Farmington, and the Office of Environmental Policy. Our favorite furry colleague, Facility Dog Tildy, was even recognized as a new addition to the University Safety team.
We in EHS are proud to now be part of the Division of University Safety. As members of our new Division, we will continue to support research, teaching, learning, and the meaningful work of staff in all areas of campus. As always, we will continue to collaborate with and support faculty, staff, and students at UConn Storrs and all regional campuses. Our offices will also remain in the same location. We look forward to seeing you on Horsebarn Hill for safety training soon!
Thursday, April 26th, a team of ten scholars reported their recent findings to an attentive group of representatives from Dining Services and Environmental Health and Safety at UConn. Their goal was to offer informed analysis of interview data about occupational health and safety collected from employees and assistant managers in Dining Services. Who were these influential scholars? They were all undergraduate students, mostly senior Psychological Science majors in Associate Professor Robert Henning’s new “Occupational Health Psychology” course (PCYC 3644). This professional presentation during their last class of the semester was the culmination of a semester of study plus data collection and analysis as a service learning project.
In his course description, Henning explains that students in this course will learn about “research-to-practice applications in the interdisciplinary field of occupational health psychology, and how these are used to enhance the safety, health, and well-being of workers.” One major assignment for the course is a service learning collaborative project that challenges students to apply theoretical knowledge to the real world of work.
To make this an exciting and authentic learning experience, Henning first sought out the help of Terri Dominguez, Director of Environmental Health and Safety at UConn. She made the initial contacts with Dining Services as a community partner willing to provide access to his undergraduate class. Assistant Director of Dining Services Mike White, always a safety advocate, took the lead role in making the project a reality, including helping to gain support from two local unions.
That’s where the most important work, the students’ work, began. After two intensive months of learning theoretical principles and best practices in workplace health and safety, they dedicated one month to conducting interviews with 60 Dining Services staff members serving in a variety of positions across five dining halls to determine how an already robust Dining Services safety program can be made even better. Under Henning’s supervision, students developed the interview protocols, translated the interview script into Spanish, created a qualitative database, and worked to analyze and summarize their findings into a usable format.
What did they learn? The students found that workers are acutely aware of the hazards in their jobs, such as heavy lifting, using dull knives, and cooking with hot oil. In addition to making a real effort to manage these hazards every day, workers often have creative ideas for new ways to manage these hazards. The students were also able to report on current practices related to return-to-work after an employee is injured, and the roles of assistant managers and coworkers. Most impressively, the students developed a set of recommendations of their own.
One of the most interesting findings was that additional training in leadership and team communication might be an effective strategy to improve workplace safety. This was especially relevant because of the diverse cultural and linguistic backgrounds of Dining Services staff. As Andrea Lopez explained, there is no direct Spanish translation of the word “hazard.” The closest equivalent is “peligro,” meaning “danger.” Why does this matter? Most occupational hazards are not considered immediately life-threatening, which lessens the perception of their severity. This creates an obstacle to recognizing the ability to manage hazards or report them. A hazard, however, is something that cannot always be avoided, and needs to be managed — sometimes requiring a team effort.
So what’s next? Many of these students are now new alumni. We have no doubt that they will be able to use the professional analysis and presentation skills they learned and practiced in this course in whatever career path they choose. The benefits of this service learning project are not limited to the students, though. Professionals in Dining Services and beyond at UConn are planning on developing new safety initiatives based on the project findings and student recommendations.
Our thanks to Dining Services for supporting this student learning project, and congratulation to Henning’s PSYCH 3644 spring 2018 class. We wish you success in your next big adventure. Students today. Huskies forever.