Teams promote culture of safety at departmental level

Penn State Environmental Health and Safety (EHS) is stepping up its efforts to improve safety in the workplace. EHS is taking a structured approach by setting up special partnerships with various Penn State departments. The “Integrated Safety Plan” (ISP) provides departments with a system for identifying and addressing hazards at the local level. The ISP has been designed to be flexible enough to apply to any unit and doesn’t rely on a one-size-fits-all mentality. 

"The idea is to generate an enhanced culture of safety," Mark Linsenbigler, occupational health and safety manager, said. "So far, participants have been talking positively about it. The basic goals are to have fewer people hurt and better overall regulatory compliance."

Under the ISP partnership, departments agree to implement three core elements: leadership commitment, employee involvement and a self-review process.  Departments which effectively demonstrate these elements can become eligible for financial incentives from EHS in the form of regulatory indemnification and cost sharing.

Participation currently is voluntary, but several large University units already are on board. Departments from the Office of Physical Plant, Auxiliary and Business Services, Penn State Libraries, College of Agriculture, and the Commonwealth Campuses have all instituted safety teams to help coordinate the ISP.

"In Auxiliary and Business Services we have 27 different teams," Worker's Compensation Safety Specialist Ed Dobo said. "The teams are going to be the people out there implementing these things. The big challenge for us is getting all of the teams to act uniformly. We want to be in the same place at the same time. It's trying to keep everyone in sequence and on the same page."

According to Linsenbigler, EHS serves as an active partner in the ISP by providing tools and consultation, but the teams drive the overall effort. He said protecting employees obviously is the primary goal of the University, but there are numerous other benefits to be gained through the ISP. “Improvements in workplace safety are also frequently associated with reduced costs, increased efficiency and higher job satisfaction”.

Linsenbigler said the department would like to "get to a point where all employees actively care about safety and don't mind approaching each other about safety issues." EHS is ready to work with any unit to help create its own safety team, promote involvement, and eventually enhance its safety culture.

"Safety is a top priority at Finance and Business," said Al Horvath, Penn State's senior vice president for Finance and Business/treasurer. "With so many diverse areas, we need a program like the (ISP) to cover all of our bases and promote a healthy, safe environment for every single employee."

For more information on the ISP, contact Linsenbigler at msl200@psu.edu or 814-865-6391.

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Last Updated September 02, 2010