Sandra Prior is the new director of UT’s Department of Environmental Health and Safety.
One of Prior’s priorities is to pinpoint ways the department can close communication gaps, be more efficient and broaden its service delivery across campus.
The department’s responsibilities include inspection of all UT research labs, identification of requirements for maintaining a building’s safety systems, hazardous waste management, fire safety, industrial and general safety oversight, environmental compliance, training and technical assistance for the vast array of UT’s safety programs.
The unit works with every academic and administrative unit on campus to ensure and promote the safety of students, employees, and visitors. Prior also serves as the safety officer for the UT Graduate School of Medicine, which has 41 labs.
As construction continues around campus, Prior envisions the Department of Environmental Health and Safety will be critical in that process.
“One of the things we’re trying to do is review drawings for new buildings or redesigns for what the buildings might need,” she said. “That way, we can anticipate the safety issues so they don’t get built into the buildings.”
Prior brings more than 35 years of experience in environmental health and safety program development and management with national, international, government, research, and academic organizations. Prior came to UT from the College of William and Mary where she served as director of environmental health and safety. Previously, she worked with the Department of Energy’s Jefferson Lab in Newport News, Virginia, and as an environmental science consultant with the U.S. Army.
She replaces Mark Smith who retired in the spring.
Prior supervises 13 employees in the Department of Environmental Health and Safety.
“They’re really a great team and are working hard,” she said. “I’m impressed with all they do given the limited resources they have and the limited tools of their trade.”
Of East Tennessee she said, “I like the camaraderie here. There is a strength of community in Knoxville and at the university.”
The Department of Environmental Health and Safety is housed under UT Public Safety. Public Safety also oversees the UT Police Department, the Office of Emergency Management and UT Clery Compliance.