Safety Committee Heightens Safety Awareness, Seeks New Members

During a Center for Film Studies building inspection, Wesleyan’s Safety Committee discovered that one of the center’s storage rooms contained many items blocking the fire panel. The committee members worked with the owner of the items to come up with a better location for storage, so fire department personnel have a clear access to the panel.

Wesleyan’s Safety Committee is looking for volunteers willing to help make campus a safer place to work and learn.

In the past few years, the committee has conducted a walk-through of 23 buildings on campus; provided personal protective equipment (safety glasses, gloves, ear protection and other equipment) to Physical Plant –Facilities staff; and helped deliver heavy tools and supplies to sites by installing mechanical lifts. They’ve also discussed ways to prevent accidents involving Wesleyan-owned vehicles and staff.

“The committee really does care about safety on campus, and we want to make a difference,” says Safety Committee co-chair Chris Cruz, safety coordinator for Physical Plant-Facilities. “To make our Safety Committee stronger, we really need more people to volunteer an hour, once a month, to help us identify safety concerns all around campus and help us come up with feasible ways to make the campus a safer place to work.”

The Safety Committee meets once a month to discuss any safety concerns throughout campus. This can range from a cluttered storage area to a blocked fire exit. Committee members help identify safety issues across campus and offer recommendations for improvement; heighten safety awareness across campus; and conduct building inspections. No prior experience is needed to join the group.

During a building inspection, committee members team up for the evaluation. They bring along an inspection form, notebook and camera, and place work-orders for items that need repair. They make sure doors are clear of obstacles, fire extinguishers are within 25 feet of an exit, emergency lighting works near exit paths, custodial closets, office supply closets and basement storage are organized, classrooms and living areas are free of debris and trip hazards, electrical cords are arranged in a safe manner, and cooking areas are clean and have a working hood fan.

The committee thoroughly examines Wesleyan’s newer structures, such as the Center for Film Studies, built in 2004, with the same criteria as the oldest buildings, such as South College, built in 1824.

“One cannot assume that the newer building would be hazard free or a safer environment to reside in due to its age,” says committee co-chair Sean Higgins, Lock Shop foreperson.  “This is a main reason why participation by an occupant in any of our buildings is valued. Being a part of this committee is a way to be aware and conscious of your working surroundings. To understanding safe practices, apply them, and demonstrate them to others which will help to enhance our environment.”

Earlier this year, during an inspection of Film Studies, the committee noticed that one of the center’s storage rooms contained many items blocking the fire panel.

“We always want to make sure the fire department has clear access to the panel. The safety committee worked with the owner of the items to come up with a better location for storage,” Cruz says. “This is what we find in almost all buildings we inspect. The mechanical rooms, basements and attics are being used for storage by either the department or Physical Plant. These can be major safety concerns.”

The Safety Committee found a former fire escape door at Wesleyan University Press that was marked “exit,” although a sign on the door said otherwise.

At Wesleyan University Press, the committee discovered a former fire escape door with a sign reading, “Not an exit.”  Oddly, right above the door was a glowing exit sign. The committee later learned that the metal staircase outside the door was unsafe, and with advice of a fire marshal, they removed the exit sign, and proposed that the door be permanently removed.

Higgins, who has 20 years experience in the commercial supply and consulting of architectural doors, door frames and door hardware, enjoys putting his expertise to use as a member of the committee. He also follows local and federal safety codes posed by the National Fire Protection Act and Americans with Disability Act.

“I became part of this committee mostly as my professional interests are directly related to safety,” Higgins says. “But I also have children attending college. I would hope that the person(s) in my position at these institutions assess their campus with the primary goal of keeping the students and staff members as safe as possible, this is my daily goal.”

Faculty and staff interested in joining the committee should e-mail ccruz01@wesleyan.edu or sjhiggins@wesleyan.edu.