Safety First sign

Environmental Health and Safety Office Minimizes Pollution, Protects Public

Behind the scenes at Buffalo State, a few watchful eyes are constantly monitoring pollutants and safety issues on campus. Members of the Environmental Health and Safety Office, under the aegis of Campus Services, diligently ensure that the college complies with hundreds of regulations and, at the same time, make the campus more environmentally friendly.

The office began in 1985 with one fire safety officer and has since evolved into a team of five that oversees fire, radiation, lab, and occupational worker safety; public health protection; environmental programs; training; and waste-stream management. Duties are currently grouped under four categories: general health and safety, lab safety, environmental programs, and fire safety.

“Part of our growth earlier this decade came as a result of increased regulations and inspections on college campuses by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation,” said David Miller, director of environmental health and safety. “There are many regulations to follow, and we have to be ready for inspectors. We also conduct numerous reports for permits throughout campus, particularly at the power and boiler plants.”

The Environmental Health and Safety Office maintains 1,500 fire extinguishers and all smoke detectors and AED (automated external defibrillator) units in each building. Staff members offer consultations for new construction—for example, proper chemical storage in the new science and mathematics complex. They also move four shipments of hazardous waste from campus each year, carefully packaging and tracking everything from electrical equipment to radioactive materials.

The office’s efforts also affect the surrounding community. Staff members and students from the Geography and Planning Department pay close attention to the campus’s 400 catch basins and 300 manholes, ensuring proper water drainage and tracking runoff into nearby Scajaquada Creek. EVERGREEN, another group under Campus Services that focuses primarily on recycling efforts, works closely with the office to label and monitor storm water drains to prevent other liquids or contaminants from entering.

Miller said that while his office works with all academic departments on campus, it tends to work most with Biology, Chemistry, Physics, and Art Conservation, monitoring items such as chemicals, radioactive materials, and x-ray machines. The staff routinely inspects fume hoods, chemical storage areas, and safety equipment in labs across campus.

Environmental Health and Safety also plays a major role in fire-safety training. They train all resident assistants and resident directors about fire-safety issues and how to properly use fire extinguishers.

With support from Sodexo and the Hospitality and Tourism Department, the office purchased a propane machine that creates contained fires for training purposes. Since fall 2002, more than 500 students in the HTR 380: Advanced Training in Hospitality class have been trained in fire safety. Members of CERT, the Community Emergency Response Team, also have undergone the training.

The office conducts four fire drills a year for each building on campus, including at least one evening drill for residence halls. Miller reminds all faculty and staff to be mindful of long or frayed extension cords, as they are main culprits of college fires.

In addition to meeting compliances and regulations, the office engages in community outreach and public health protection. Staff members work regularly with University Police and Weigel Health Center for bloodborne pathogen training. They also uphold OSHA regulations through programs such as asbestos management, mold control, and ergonomic awareness.

The list of tasks for the Environmental Health and Safety Office is long, but it’s all in a day’s work for the staff. “We take pride in what we accomplish,” Miller said. “So much of what we do is behind the scenes to keep the college running.”