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Environmental Health and Safety Reorganizes to Better Serve Campus

UT Environmental Health and Safety has expanded to better serve the Volunteer community.

The Biosafety Program and the Radiation Safety Department have moved from the Office of Research and Engagement and are now housed under EHS. The changes went into effect July 1.

“This makes our programs more effective, improves communication between our groups, and makes us more timely in our response to researchers and other campus partners,” said EHS Director Sandra Prior. “With all of us together and cross-training, we can increase our capabilities. Previously our customers didn’t know who to go to for assistance because we were distributed. Now they have one place to go.”

In addition to serving researchers, EHS offers a variety of services for the UT community—whether it’s students looking for training on using fire extinguishers or staff seeking help for the ergonomic setup of their work station.

Robert Nobles, interim vice chancellor for research, noted that external reviewers had recommended UT host all safety programs under one division.

“With this reorganization, we are renewing our commitment to the culture of safety on campus while working with the stakeholders to enhance services,” he said.

As part of EHS’s restructuring, several programs have merged, new initiatives have been launched, and some personnel have taken on new or bigger roles to more efficiently deliver services. Some the changes:

  • An automated external defibrillator (AED) center has been created to deliver CPR and first aid programming.
  • The lab safety group has combined with biosafety for a redesigned laboratory safety services unit.
  • The industrial/worker safety and environmental safety unit has split into separate units.
  • Fire and life safety programs, which previously focused on fire extinguishers, now include emergency preparedness and fire-related permitting programs.
  • Management of the Knox Box—a container outside each UT building that gives first responders quick access to a building with a key and a map of the structure—allows for better coordination with the Knoxville Fire Department.
  • Greater collaboration with Facilities Services has been established.

A recent audit noted that Environmental Health and Safety was short on resources and recommended the addition of more personnel. As a result, Prior plans to add 18 new employees over the next three years. Seven of those positions already have been approved for this fiscal year and the hiring process is under way, she said.

EHS’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, occupational health, training, and technical assistance for the vast array of UT’s safety programs. It is part of UT Public Safety, which also oversees the UT Police Department, the Office of Emergency Management, and UT Clery Compliance.

Faculty-led research compliance committees will continue to report to the Office of Research and Engagement.


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