Environmental Health Safety awaits mystery candidate

William Diesslin, the director of Environmental Health and Safety at Iowa State University and one of the candidates in the search for a director of the Department of Environmental Health and Safety at K-State, speaks to the search committee and attendees of his presentation on July 10, 2015 in Leadership Studies Town Hall. (George Walker | The Collegian)

Last week, amidst a thorough vetting process, a search committee appointed by the Office of the Vice President of Administration and Finance listened to presentations by Mostafa Kamal and William Diesslin, two of the candidates for the position of Environmental Health Safety director.

This evaluation process includes a one-on-one closed interview with each candidate, followed by a public presentation and Q-and-A segment.

The third and final candidate, yet to be announced, is reported to be unsure of whether or not they are to follow through with their candidacy due to a personal issue.

According to Betsy Cauble, chair of the search committee, if there is to be an interview and an open forum, it would be held some time next week.

When asked about the name and presentation date of the third candidate, representatives of the Office of the Vice President for Administration and Finance said they don’t have that information.

The appointed committee is made up of personnel from different departments of concern at K-State: Environmental Health Safety, Public Safety, Forestry, Agriculture, Research Compliance, Anthropolgy, Biosecurity Research Institute and the K-State Meat Lab.

According to Kelly Green, environmental manager and member of the search committee, the committee does not select by vote but rather individual assessments of each candidate. The new director is to be selected after a discussion between the committee and the Office of the Vice President of Administration and Finance.

The new director is to succeed current director, Steven Galitzer, who retired in June 2014 but was reappointed as interim director earlier this year to hold the position until a replacement is found.

The first candidate, Kamal, is currently a Hazardous Waste Permits section manager with the Kansas Department of Health and Environment and has held that position since 2001.

Kamal’s presentation focused imposing a new “Safety Culture” at the university and making sure that guidelines and rules are well-implemented and followed. Kamal said his goal was to reach the level of safety where “safety is how we do business round here.”

“I’ve looked at the 2025 vision for K-State, the large picture of what’s going on, and it’s clear to me that that’s the direction the institution wants to go into in the future, to have a sustainable safety culture,” Kamal said.

The second candidate, Diesslin, is the current associate director of Environmental Health Safety at Iowa State University and has held that position since 2012.

Diesslin’s approach to managing Environmental Health Safety was focused more on creating a collaborative safety climate between all stakeholders that would eventually align with the university’s safety culture. He also highlighted how funding can be an issue, as it creates a trade off between price, quality and safety in a university setting.

“Think of it as a horse race where you have price, quality and safety,” Diesslin said. “They need to cross the finish line together. Every now and then they interchange the lead, but my job as EHS director is to make sure that that safety horse isn’t too far behind.”

Diesslin also talked about a collaborative environment in working with lab researchers whom are exposed to unsafe environments, rather than appear to them as a safety officer that restricts their research.

“I’ve had people come to me who want to do outrageously dangerous work,” Diesslin said. “It’s not my place to tell you don’t do it, but (rather) how to do it (safely).”

There’s a great deal of uncertainty given the situation with the third candidate. According to Cauble, there’s no favorite for the position thus far.