Environmental Health and Safety Department: More than just regulations

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From maintaining proper laboratory signage to environmental emissions standards, the Environmental Health and Safety Department at Kansas State has a wide variety of duties to keep students safe on a daily basis and ensure K-State is meeting required environmental standards.

“The first and most important reason is for the safety of our campus, employees, our students and visitors to campus,” Christina Aguilera, director of EHS, said. “Also, the environmental health of the surrounding community [is important] as well, to ensure we’re being good stewards of our environmental resources.”

EHS is even responsible for food standards at bake sales and other student functions, Aguilera said.

“Whenever someone is doing a food event on campus, if they’re preparing even something as simple as a bake sale, we have a sanitation officer that those materials need to be reviewed by,” Aguilera said.

Aguilera said the EHS webpage has information listed about what can and cannot be done without the review of a sanitation officer. There are also various other tabs on the department’s page to show students more information about things like lab safety and fire safety.

Another way the department reaches out to the various K-State colleges is through the university’s Environmental Health and Safety Committee. The committee is made up of members from various colleges, including both a faculty senator and a student senator.

Brian Niehoff, EHS committee chair and associate provost for institutional effectiveness, said one recent goal of the committee is to ensure all the signage in laboratories is proper and consistent across campus.

“In the past, I don’t think we’ve had any kind of standard signage that they were using, [so] we created standard signage,” Niehoff said. “When you go to a lab, there should be a sign on the door that says, ‘If you’re going to enter this lab, here’s what you should know that’s in here. Here’s what you should be wearing if you need to be wearing something special.'”

In addition to their own goals for campus safety, the EHS committee works with several other safety committees at the college level, ranging from agriculture to engineering. Those internal safety committees look at issues specific to their own department, and then the university committee communicates with them about their more specific departmental topics.

“Having the [EHS] committee working with all these committees that are out there allows the Environmental Health and Safety mission to be broadly examined and under focus at the university level,” Niehoff said.

Outside of the committee, another responsibility EHS has is monitoring chemicals on campus. In fact, it is required for the university to have a list of every single chemical present on campus and a “collection of safety data sheets associated with all those chemicals,” said Jeff Scott, industrial hygienist and lab safety technician at EHS.

Scott said he takes care to tell students why the EHS and its regulations are there in the first place and why it’s so important to follow them.

“Stay serious about the chemicals you’re working with,” Scott said. “Be vigilant. It’s important to read the safety data sheets associated with a chemical before you use it or to ask someone who is familiar with that process.”

Scott said he wants students to be aware that EHS is accessible to students and can be used as a resource for any question or concern they may have related to environmental health and safety.

“I think oftentimes people aren’t aware of the services we provide,” Scott said. “We’re happy to help anybody that comes to us with a safety concern, whatever it is.”

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Emily Moore
My name is Emily Moore and I'm a senior majoring in English and mass communications with a minor in leadership. I love to read, write and edit. During my free time, I enjoy doing crossword puzzles, rock climbing and spending time with my friends.