University of Pittsburgh
June 22, 1999


Contact:  412-624-4147

PITTSBURGH, June 23 --The University of Pittsburgh has one of the country's best health, safety and environmental programs, according to the National Safety Council's Campus Safety, Health and Environmental Management Division.

The National Safety Council (NSC) will present Pitt's Department of Environmental Health and Safety (EHS) with its highest endorsement - the Award of Honor - in the Complete Safety Program category at the International Conference on Campus Safety July 11-14 at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

"The complete safety program recognizes the university's successful creation of a comprehensive, prioritized safety program that addresses the complex challenges inherent in a large research institution," said Jane W. Thompson, associate vice chancellor for planning and analysis at Pitt.

The NSC examined 10 areas including accident incident rate, reporting structures, placement and training, safe conditions and engineering revisions, emergencies and environmental health and safety. Pitt's EHS department scored 95 out of a possible 100 in the program evaluation.

Pitt's EHS department is responsible for everything from conducting the fire safety day for students, creating safety protocols and training faculty and lab workers in the use of hazardous materials such as chemicals, biological agents or lasers.

A relatively new department, EHS was established 10 years ago after an ad-hoc committee examining risk management convinced the University that it needed a permanent department dedicated to campus safety, according to department Director Larry Keller, who was brought in to start the program from scratch.

Keller is especially proud of the award, given that most of the other colleges in the competition have three to four times the number of staff. "Plus, we're responsible for all of the regional campuses, the Allegheny Observatory, UPARC and the Pymatuning Laboratory," said Keller.

He also points out that his department has saved the University money by better management of hazardous waste disposal, including recycling the waste into programs that use waste for fuel.

"When we started, the University spent $1.5 million a year on hazardous waste disposal," said Keller. "Now, we're spending between $200-300,000 a year, while handling a greater volume."

Though most EHS activities are proactive, training personnel and students and creating awareness of safety issues, the office also responds to emergency situations, working in conjunction with campus and city police, fire and rescue personnel.

The Campus Safety, Health and Environmental Management Division is an association within the National Safety Council designed especially for college and university safety professionals. Founded in 1954, the Division was created to address its members' unique safety concerns and provide campus-specific information as well as networking opportunities.