Penn State Facilities Engineering Institute to take unique approach to safety

May 26, 2017

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — The Penn State Facilities Engineering Institute (PSFEI) is taking a unique approach to ensure the safety of its staff, both in the office and field, thanks to a new program. An expansion of the environmental, health and safety management system already in place at the University, the PSFEI approach will mitigate risks associated with traveling and while conducting highly variable and unique tasks at host clients’ facilities.

The project, which addresses key safety risks and control methodologies, including personal protective equipment, hazard communication in the field, hearing conservation, and fall protection, among others, will be rolled out in three phases.

Phase one will focus on the identification of occupations within business groups. It will also assess current control methods and potential injuries, illnesses and environmental impact. During this phase, each PSFEI business group will participate in group interviews and discussions, peer reviews and validation site visits to ultimately complete a Health and Safety Hazard Identification and Assessment Survey. The survey will identify hazards based on potential to cause injury/illness (e.g., struck by, slip/trip/fall, and ergonomics), activities, tasks and potential exposures (e.g., hazardous chemicals, motorized vehicles and equipment), and stressors/complexities impacting the diagnosis of criteria such as absence of data, the need to rely on personal expertise, and differences of risk tolerance between individuals.

Phase two will identify, align and execute current University and PSFEI abatement efforts and loss control methodologies to establish, as needed, new efforts and methodologies.

Lastly, phase three will develop and execute strategies for sustainment.

“Penn State has a program that is primarily focused on work being performed at University-owned and managed locations,” said PSFEI Director John Hajduk. “PSFEI staff provides services at over 10,000 locations across the country. It’s critical to understand the type of work and associated safety risks that our employees encounter at all the locations we serve.”

For Hajduk, employee safety extends beyond close of business each day.

“It’s important to educate and build a safety culture to make sure our employees go home to their families each and every day,” he said.

To ensure the program complements the existing Penn State safety program, Hajduk enlisted the expertise of Tom Churbock, partner at HSE Solutions LLC, a health, safety and environmental consulting firm, and Joshua Troxell, a safety representative with Penn State’s College of Engineering.

“Penn State has always taken the health and safety of our personnel very seriously,” said Troxell. “However, due to the unique tasks and responsibilities PSFEI employees face, especially when in the field, we recognize the need to take extra steps to ensure that existing Penn State safety programs are adapted to meet their needs. Therefore, the college is working closely with PSFEI in this unique approach to meeting safety needs.”

With more than 35 years of industry experience, Churbock believes programs like this are essential in the prevention of workplace accidents and injuries.

“Over the last few years, on average, approximately 2.9 million employees in the United States experienced and suffered from occupational injuries and illnesses that required medical treatment at a hospital, clinic or physician’s office,” Churbock said. For Churbock, a percentage of these injuries may have been avoided if a proper safety plan had been in place. 

The approach PSFEI is taking is unique in that it is being developed organically and built on two key elements, leadership support and meaningful staff involvement.

“With the strategic alignment of leadership from the College of Engineering, unconditional assistance and technical knowledge of the University’s safety professionals, and the wealth of existing programs, PSFEI staff will be lending their expertise, talent and past experiences during each phase of the project,” Churbock said.

PSFEI plans to have the initiative fully integrated and in use by the end of the 2017 calendar year.

The Penn State Facilities Engineering Institute provides facility engineering services to 11 Pennsylvania state agencies, the federal government and nonprofit organizations. The organization aims to advance its customers’ facilities engineering aspirations through applied research, education and innovation.

Last Updated May 26, 2017