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EHS Newsletter|Fall/Winter 2013
EHS Newsletter

Fall/Winter 2013   



Message from the EHS Director

Welcome to the first edition of the UW Environmental Health and Safety (EHS) E-Newsletter.

Through these newsletters, we will be providing the University community with timely information on safety and health topics.   Given that this is the first volume of the EHS E-Newsletter, I would like to share with you some background on the UW Environmental Health and Safety (EHS) Department.

The EHS Department mission is to promote health, safety, and environmental protection by providing exemplary programs and services in support of the University mission. Our vision is a university culture where safety and health are core values, embraced and acted upon at all levels. You, the university community, are an essential component of that vision.

EHS program areas include occupational health and safety, chemical safety, biological safety, radiation safety and regulated materials management. EHS services include consultation on EHS and related regularity compliance issues, hazard assessments, audits/inspections, training, and chemical, biological, radioactive, electrical and universal waste disposal. 

One new area of emphasis within the department is "EHS research compliance assistance".  EHS works with the Office of Research and Economic Development to coordinate this effort. If your research work involves hazardous materials, biological pathogens or toxins, recombinant DNA, or radiation hazards including class 3B or 4 lasers, please consult UW EHS Research Compliance Assistance web page.

The University is fortunate to have a highly skilled, knowledgeable and dedicated EHS staff.   EHS department staff currently hold eight well-respected professional certifications:  three Certified Industrial Hygienists (CIH) , two Certified Hazardous Materials Managers (CHMM), one Certified Health Physicist (CHP) , one Registered Biosafety Professional (RBP) , and one Certified Safety Professional  (CSP).    The EHS department consists of  10.75 FTE benefited staff and 3-5 part time employees.   The number of professional certifications for a department of this size is uncommon.   To learn more about the EHS Department; who we are, what we do and where we are located please see About UW EHS.

Please know that the EHS Department is a resource to the University community.  Do not hesitate to contact us.  I encourage you to assist in promoting a positive UW safety culture every day.


Nancy Fox

Director, UW Environmental Health and Safety Department

How do we promote a positive safety culture?

The concept of safety culture is all about the well-being of people. People are what make the University of Wyoming a premier education and research institution. Safety culture is the shared values, attitudes and beliefs that shape safety and health practice; what we do with respect to safety every day.

In organizations with a positive safety culture, safety is valued and acted upon at all levels of the organization.  UW recognizes the value of its people and strives to improve the safety culture among students, faculty, and staff.  Individually, each of us plays a role in promoting a positive safety culture.



A sampling of actions that can promote a positive UW safety culture:

  • Think, Act and Be Safe. Whether it is a yellow traffic light, or other situation, make the safe choice.
  • Keep your eyes open for hazards and unsafe work practices. Implement appropriate corrective actions if you can. If you cannot mitigate the hazard, report the hazard to your supervisor, department or EHS.
  • Communicate the importance of safety at UW to others. Be willing to remind someone to wear their safety glasses or hearing protection if required.
  • Attend safety training to gain needed knowledge, skills, and abilities necessary to do your job safely.
  • Use proper procedures and required personal protective equipment every time.
  • Maintain an open mind to new ideas about safety improvement.

A few measurable indicators of a strong safety culture:

  • Reduced number of workers compensation claims, lost work days, and OSHA reportable injuries (see this link for UW workplace accident data)
  • Reduced worker compensation costs
  • Fewer times when something bad almost happens (near misses)

Some positive links between health, safety and productivity in the workplace:

  • Increased quality and innovation
  • Enhanced organizational reputation
  • Improved employee retention and recruitment




What to do when the fire alarm goes off

The primary reason for conducting Evacuation/Fire Drills is to educate the building occupants about the procedures to follow in the event of an emergency that requires evacuation. Evacuation/Fire drills provide an opportunity for occupants to locate and use alternative routes under nonthreatening conditions. This familiarity increases the probability of a successful evacuation during an actual emergency.

Evacuation/Fire drills are required by code.  Most people will enter and leave buildings through the same entrance. Some stairways and alternative exits might not be familiar to many occupants, even those who have worked in the same building for many years. In the event of an emergency, occupants might travel past emergency exits to get to the building entrance (exit) with which they are familiar. Become familiar with the exits in your buildings, including alternate exits and follow these procedures, when a fire alarm sounds.

What to do when the Fire Alarm Sounds:


  1. Stop what you are doing – even if you are on the phone
  2. Close any open windows – if you have time
  3. Close doors behind you but do not lock – unless the door is in a locked mode
  4. Close fire doors as you leave
  5. Do not go back to your office or lab to retrieve staff or items
  6. Walk, don’t run
  7. Use the stairs to evacuate or, if unable to self-evacuate,  proceed to the Rescue Waiting Area designated on building Emergency Evacuation Map
  8. Proceed to your designated Assembly Area, found on the Emergency Evacuation Map
  9. If you have students in a class, escort them to the designated Assembly Area
  10. If you are in a Lab, proceed to the designated Assembly Area:
    a) Shut down any experiments in a timely manner, so they are safe
    b) Do not try and re-enter the building to get to lab animals
  11. Report to your Building Emergency Coordinator, BECs, Work Area Emergency Coordinator, WECs, or First Responder anyone who will not or has not left the building
  12. The building will be cleared, alarm shut off and you will be told when it is safe to re-enter the building


What not to do during a fire alarm!

  1. Do not use elevators
  2. Do not block open fire doors open with door stops
    a. Fire doors must never be blocked open
  3. Do not re-enter the building for any reason until you are told it is safe


Fire drills are conducted to educate building occupants, and assist in the evaluation of emergency plans. EHS staff is working with University Police, Facilities Planning, Real Estate Office, Physical Plant, building occupants, and the Laramie Fire Department to develop Building Emergency Action Plans (BEAPs), post evacuation maps and facilitate evacuation drills for the Laramie campus non-residential buildings. For more information on the BEAP program see this link or contact the EHS Department or 766-3277.



Hot Work Permit Program increases worker safety, decreases risk of property loss

On November 20, 2001 the old Iowa State Capitol, an historic building and centerpiece on the University of Iowa campus, suffered major damage after contractors using open flame torches and heat guns accidentally set fire to the cupola supporting the building's gold dome. Repairs and restoration of the building lasted several years and cost over $1.5 million, as reported on the University of Iowa website. Unsafe hot work has been the cause of many other very unfortunate yet preventable accidents on university campuses. This is one of the reasons why UW Environmental Health & Safety teamed up with UW Physical Plant to develop and implement an important safety program aimed at preventing hot work tragedies from occurring on our campus.

Hot Work Team

The purpose of the UW Hot Work Permit Program is to prevent fires or explosions caused by unauthorized hot work. Hot work includes welding, grinding and similar operations that create sparks or flames. The UW Hot Work Program is designed to comply with the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) Welding, Cutting and Brazing standard. It consists of a written permit process that requires workers to inspect a work area, remove any combustible and flammable materials a safe distance away, and get supervisor approval before any hot work can be started. In developing the program, a team was assembled, which included: Thomas Lee, EHS Occupational Safety Specialist; and mechanical trades experts John Schuckman, Patrick Jones and Courtney Gashler. The team  established three major goals: first was to increase worker safety; second was to decrease the potential for loss such as fire and smoke damage to UW facilities; third and most important, was to gain buy-in from the various stakeholders. These efforts culminated on August 29th, 2012 when EHS provided a hot work permit program training session attended by 18 technical staff from Physical Plant, Athletics and Residence Life and Dining departments.


According to the team, a collaborative approach was beneficial for achieving their goals because every individual contributed valuable knowledge and experience. The outcome was a well-vetted program that continues to protect the university from hot work-related accidents. To learn more about the Hot Work Permit Program and other occupational health and safety programs please visit the EHS website or contact Thomas Lee or Carol Petty.





NEW mercury thermometer exchange program

The Environmental Health and Safety (EHS) Department is pleased to roll out a  new mercury thermometer exchange program.  This program is designed to remove potentially dangerous equipment from the campus in a cost-effective and environmentally-conscience way.  Not only will the disposal of (unbroken) mercury thermometers be free of charge to departments and individuals, but EHS will also help defer the cost of replacing them with less hazardous thermometers


For every unbroken mercury thermometer turned in as waste, EHS will pay half the cost of a replacement alcohol, non-toxic biodegradable, or petroleum distillate filled glass thermometer, up to $50.00.  Just include the receipt with the hazardous waste, or tape it to the mercury thermometer that is being disposed.  There are only limited funds available at this time, so this is a first-come-first-served program.

Most new scientific grade thermometers can be purchased through large safety equipment suppliers for less than $50.00, although specialty types can run much higher than that.  Although there are a few specialty applications that specify the usage of mercury thermometers, there is normally very little difference in terms of accuracy when using replacement thermometers.

This is preferable to replacing valuable lab equipment that has been irreparably contaminated by a mercury spill! It also the saves the University the time, materials and waste costs of responding to mercury spills. In the last year, personnel from the EHS Regulated Materials Management Center (RMMC) have responded to three incidents in which mercury thermometers have broken on equipment.  In two cases, the equipment could not be decontaminated and had to be removed from the lab permanently.  One oven, which was valued upwards of $1500, had mercury on the heating coils that could not be removed; another high-dollar incubator was so extensively contaminated that the machine needed to be taken completely apart before disposal. The cost of a single mercury spill cleanup and disposal can approach $1,000.

UW EHS strongly encourages researchers and departments to switch to non-mercury thermometers. Why take the risk?  Mercury, which is liquid at room temperature, is highly volatile and can be toxic to humans. In the case of spillage in an oven, the vapor released increases rapidly as the metal is heated, so too does the danger to anyone near the spill.

Contact the EHS RMMC for more information (766-3697).




Are you ready for a severe winter?

According to the Farmer’s Almanac, the U.S. mainland should brace for a winter that is both colder and snowier than previous years. Locally, the Northern Plains could experience “piercing cold” while the snowfall may return to “normal” accumulations. Whether or not you believe these predictions, it is still a good idea to prepare for a change in the weather. 

 The National Safety Council advises you to take these steps:

Winter Ready


  1. Prepare your home for any winter emergency with a Winter Survival Kit.
  2. Be ready for ice, snow and cold temperatures. Have shovels and de-icer available to remove snow and ice from sidewalks, driveways and parking lots. Learn how to avoid frostbite and hypothermia.
  3. Prepare your vehicle. Have your vehicle serviced regularly. Check the tread and air pressure in your tires and the levels of antifreeze and washer fluid. Carry a vehicle emergency kit. Check the weather and road conditions before you travel (
  4. Make sure your smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors are in working order. According to the CDC, most carbon monoxide poisonings happen in January and December. Change the batteries annually, test them every month. And replace detectors if over 10 years old.
  5. Check your furnace/heating system. Have your furnace inspected by a professional prior to the start of every heating season. Don't store combustible materials near a furnace, hot water heater, space heater, etc. Turn off space heaters when you leave the room. Don't use extension cords with electric space heaters (the high amount of current they require could melt the cord and start a fire). When lighting a gas appliance, strike your match first, then turn on the gas. Never use your gas range as a heating device.
  6. Clean your chimney and fireplace to prevent house fires. Clear the ash from the fireplace regularly. Store ashes in a metal container and allow them to cool completely.
  7. Check your fire extinguisher.  Charge and/or replace it if necessary.
  8. Get your flu shot. It takes your body two weeks to build immunity from the flu. Get your flu shot early, in October or November. However, it is never too late to get the flu vaccine.


Don’t underestimate the dangers of slick surfaces.

Almost a third of all injuries reported at UW resulted from slips, trips, or falls. Forty to fifty percent of these accidents were directly related to winter conditions. What can you do to avoid slip and fall injuries?

  • Be alert (not distracted by mobile devices or other stimuli). 
  • Dress appropriately and wear footwear with non-slip soles and flat heels.
  • Slow down and give yourself ample time to get where you are going.
  • Avoid walking on ice (notably on shady areas and inclines).
  • If you can’t avoid ice, bend your knees slightly and take slower, shorter steps.
  • If you note a slippery area on campus, call Physical Plant immediately at 766-6225.

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