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Keeping People Safe at UNH

By Erika Mantz, Media Relations
April 4, 2007

UNH is an acclaimed teaching institution with approximately 12,000 undergraduate and 2,500 graduate students. Tuition and fees from students was over $28 million in 2006.

UNH is also a premiere research institution. Grant and contract funding has almost doubled in the past 10 years, bringing the revenue from these sources to $128 million. Much of this money is spent on research activities, ranging from space science to nanotechnology to ocean mapping.

The Office of Environmental Health and Safety (OEHS) is the administrative department on campus responsible for ensuring that researchers maintain a safe and secure environment and comply with federal, state, and local regulations.

Research and teaching activities may require the use of hazardous materials, including chemicals, biological agents, or radiological materials. According to the UNH Chemical Environmental Management System, or UNHCEMS™, there are more than 50,000 chemical containers on the Durham campus alone. “It is often difficult to keep track of all the chemicals on campus,” says Ken Brown, hazardous materials coordinator in OEHS. “Fortunately, we have a great online chemical tracking system to help us in this endeavor.”

OEHS inspects over 550 rooms where hazardous materials are present. Staff members conduct building-wide safety audits looking for unsafe conditions and work practices. “The purpose of the annual visit is to help ensure the facility is a safe and healthy environment for faculty, staff, students and visitors,” says David Gillum, assistant director of OEHS. “It also gives us an opportunity to update our emergency contact information and provide it to the Durham Fire Department for emergency response purposes.”

OEHS has been a leader in the development of concise, understandable hazardous material shipping guidance documents for colleges and universities. According to Andy Glode, hazardous materials shipping specialist, “I am regularly contacted by companies and schools nationwide for advice and guidance on hazardous material shipping. Dozens of institutions have adopted our publications for their own use. It is flattering that the documents we have created for use at UNH have been so widely used and accepted.”

In December 2006, the State of New Hampshire conducted an unannounced, comprehensive on-site inspection of the radiation protection program. No violations or problems were noted during the inspection. “Laboratory personnel at UNH take great care in the use and storage of radioactive materials,” says Sam Siegel, radiation safety officer in OEHS.

Technical experts from OEHS serve on, and coordinate, four safety committees. These groups meet on a quarterly basis to review and establish biological, chemical, radiological and occupational safety procedures. Brad Manning, director of OEHS also serves on the UNH Environmental Health and Safety Committee, which promulgates health and safety policies for the campus.

In support of the University’s commitment to sustainability and protection of human health and the environment, OEHS has worked with other departments, divisions, and colleges to form the Solid Waste and Environmental Management Planning task force. This group encourages all members of the university community to actively pursue controlling solid waste streams through the implementation of initiatives designed to minimize volume, toxicity, and physical impact to the environment.

OEHS manages many other programs, including biological safety, chemical safety, emergency preparedness, fire safety, hazardous materials shipping, industrial hygiene, occupational safety, radiation safety, and storm water management. For a complete listing of the services offered by OEHS, visit http://www.unh.edu/ehs/.

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