Celebrating the people and projects of TU's Division of Administration and Finance

EHS Tackles Safety in the Workplace

By Susanna Craine

On Thursday, May 24 at the Conference Center at Sheppard Pratt SERMA will officially recognize Towson University.  You’re probably asking, what on earth is SERMA? Is it yet another elusive acronym disguised by initials, or is it an organization worth learning about?

SERMA stands for “State Employee Risk Management Administration.” Each campus in the University System of Maryland is provided with risk management services in an agreement through SERMA.  The organization helps reduce the potential for workplace injuries and thus controls workers’ compensation costs by reducing the number of workers injured on their jobs.

The injury claims by Towson in calendar year 2011 were reduced by 10% when compared to calendar year 2010.

How was this done? Through the hard work of a small, but important department on campus: Environmental Health and Safety (EHS). Larry Holbrook, Director of EHS, says that his operation is all about training and inspections.  EHS employs just seven people at their 7400 York Road headquarters, but the rest of TU is almost 25,000 people spread out over hundreds of acres.  Holbrook’s caution is to go slow, pay attention and handle equipment and anything else we are using with great care.

Given the range of occupations and academic programs on campus, we have people handling power tools and other kinds of electrical devices, using chemicals, caring for animals, doing water-based research, and performing health-related exercises involving sharps, medicines and blood-borne pathogens. But it doesn’t end there!  Others on campus are mastering myriad other esoteric equipment that pertains to astronomy, landscaping, athletics, painting, clean-up, entertaining … you name it!  And all of these activities require procedures and policies to protect those who are engaged in them.

EHS is vigilant in the area of programs that need to be designed and taught to people with especially challenging occupations.  There is continuous vetting of new methodologies and/or new equipment that need supervision.  That is why Larry and his stalwart experts know the campus so thoroughly.  The three p’s – procedures, policies and programs – must be launched and evaluated on the turf they will be practiced on. 

Thus far, 2011 and 2012 have been A+ years for EHS.  We can help them continue to score well by watching our own safety.

EHS staff (from left to right) Diane Douglass, Larry Holbrook, Gregg Wood, Cpl. Joe Gregory, Paul Parrish, Rick Setzer and Donna McLaughlin

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