Playing It Safe: No Game for the Office of Environmental Health and Safety
By Jody Record, Campus Journal Editor
August 19, 2009
In 2008, the Office of Environmental Health and Safety disposed of approximately 57,370 feet of fluorescent light blubs. Laid end to end that’s almost the distance from Durham to Portsmouth.
The more interesting fact, however, is that many people don’t realize those bulbs are considered hazardous waste, which is just one area EHS is charged with overseeing to ensure environmental safety on campus.
While the university community goes about its day-to-day business, the EHS department is quietly managing the proper handling, use and storage of chemicals and infectious agents, hazardous waste and radioactive materials as well as their shipping and disposal; and providing technical consultations and service, and developing programs that comply with applicable state and federal health, safety and environmental regulations.
"There are many regulations in the United States that require businesses to protect employees and the environment. EHS helps UNH to navigate through all of these rules with the ultimate goal of preventing an adverse impact on our ecosystem and our campus community," says David Gillum, assistant director of the Office of Environmental Health and Safety.
Each year, EHS:
- Inspects 466 rooms in 20 campus buildings that use hazardous materials.
- Tests and certifies 377 chemical fume hoods to ensure proper airflow.
- Coordinates the disposal of more than 60,000 pounds (30 tons) of electronic waste.
- Maintains an inventory of microorganisms.
- Ensures the safe use and operation of more than 60 lasers.
- Coordinates the disposal of more than 45,000 pounds (23.5 tons) of hazardous chemical waste.
- Responds to 10-15 hazardous material situations.
- Maintains an inventory of radioisotopes and radioactive sealed sources and conducts training on radiation safety.
- Investigates approximately 35 air quality complaints.
- Performs and/or coordinates safety training for faculty, staff and students.
EHS also produced a poster that reminds people they can help reduce the spread of illnesses by repeatedly washing their hands or using hand sanitizers. And the heat advisories that get sent out when the air quality is unhealthy? EHS is responsible for those, too.
“It is important for everyone to consider their impact on human health and the environment in everything we do. There are so many things that can be done to lessen our impact on the environment,” Gillum says.