Introduction to Health & Safety

Dear PLU Faculty, Staff, and Students:

This handbook is designed to provide an overview of Pacific Lutheran University’s health and safety system and to answer frequently asked questions. It is intended to be a valuable reference for your office, and we encourage you to familiarize yourself with its contents.

We all strive to become better informed and to follow good safety practices. Please be aware of general safety practices for the workplace and know what to do in the event of an emergency. Many of you have safety responsibilities specific to your position description and will need additional information.

Supervisors, in particular, must be familiar with workplace safety and documentation responsibilities.

Those of you working, teaching, and conducting research in laboratories may need more information about working safely with chemical, radioactive, and other special laboratory hazards at PLU. This handbook tells you how to obtain that information.

The Environmental Health & Safety Manager is responsible for assisting the PLU community in implementing workplace health and safety policies and procedures. If you have any questions regarding safety concerns while at PLU, speak with your supervisor or call the Environmental Health & Safety Manager at 253-535-7233.

Mission Statement

Environmental Health & Safety supports the university mission to educate for lives of Thoughtful Inquiry, Service, Leadership, and Care by assisting instructors, researchers, students, administrators, and staff in making sure every member of this community goes home at the end of the day… with their limbs and their health.

Health & Safety Handbook

Chapter 1: Accident Prevention Program

Health and safety at PLU is both a right and a responsibility. This handbook provides an overview of the PLU Occupational Health, Safety, & Accident Prevention Program, a program developed to manage risks in the work environment.
The PLU Personnel Manual includes a section on safety and emergency policies.

New faculty and staff are given a copy of the manual in orientation. It is also available online at www.plu.edu/personnel-manual/. All employees are asked to acquaint themselves with these policies and to see their supervisor or other appropriate university official with questions or concerns.

The Washington State legislature enacted the Washington Industrial Safety and Health Act (Chapter 49.17 RCW) in 1973. The purpose was to “create, maintain, continue, and enhance the industrial safety and health program of the state.” The program equals or exceeds the standards prescribed by the federal Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970.

The law requires every employer to:

  • Create and maintain a safe and healthful working environment.
  • Furnish safety devices and safeguards.
  • Adopt and use practices, means, methods, operations, and processes that are reasonably adequate to render the employment and place of employment safe and healthful.
  • Do every other thing reasonably necessary to protect the life, safety, and health of employees.

The Washington State Department of Labor and Industries (L&I) administers state regulations governing employment issues. This includes wage and hour laws, child labor, and family leave; electrical, elevator, and boiler inspections; and construction and contractor registration.

L&I also administers the worker injury and illness insurance program, commonly known as workers’ compensation. The Washington Industrial Safety & Health Act (WISHA) services division provides health and safety consultation and compliance.

The university adheres to policies that reflect accident prevention program requirements and establishes responsible institutional conduct regarding environmental health and safety. Most importantly, faculty and staff in their role as supervisors are key elements in assuring health and safety at PLU.

Manager Responsibilities (Officer, Dean, or Director)

Managers are responsible for ensuring that:

  • Individuals under their management have the authority to implement appropriate health and safety policies, practices, and programs. (WAC 296-800-11010)
  • Funding for health and safety programs, practices, and equipment is requested, secured, and appropriated as needed.
  • Areas under their management are in compliance with PLU health and safety practices, policies, and programs. (WAC 296-800-11035)
  • Activities under their management that pose a risk to the health and safety of our community be discontinued until they can meet regulatory and university expectations for a safe and healthy work and learning environment. (WAC 296-800-11015 & 11030)

Supervisor Responsibilities (Those who provide guidance to other employees)

Supervisors are responsible for the implementation of the PLU Occupational Safety, Health, & Accident Prevention Program. This includes:

  • Ensuring that workplaces and equipment are safe, well maintained, and in compliance with external agency regulations and PLU policies, programs, and practices. (WAC 296-800-11005 & 11010)
  • Ensuring that health and safety practices and procedures are clearly communicated and understood by employees through training.
  • Enforcing health and safety rules related to job performance fairly and uniformly. (WAC 296-800-11035)
  • Encouraging employees and students to report workplace hazards without fear of reprisal.
  • Ensuring that inspections, investigations, and health and safety training records are kept for the designated period of time as specified in each code requirement, which may be many years after an employee leaves the university.

Employee and Student Responsibilities

Employees and students are responsible for following the requirements of the PLU Occupational Safety, Health & Accident Prevention Program. This includes (WAC 296-800-120):

  • Coordinating and cooperating with all other employees in the workplace to try to eliminate on-the-job injuries and illnesses.
  • Applying the principles of accident prevention in daily work, class, laboratory, or residence and use proper safety devices and protective equipment required by PLU.
  • Taking care of all personal protective equipment properly.
  • Not wearing torn or loose clothing while working around machinery.
  • Reporting promptly to your supervisor every injury or occupational illness.
  • Not removing, displacing, damaging, destroying, or carrying off any safeguard, notice, or warning provided to make the workplace safe.
  • Not interfering with the use of any work practice designed to protect you from injuries.
  • Doing everything reasonably necessary to protect the life and safety of others.
  • Participating in safety training programs.

Environmental Health & Safety Manager Responsibilities

The Environmental Health & Safety Manager is responsible for the development and administration of the Occupational Safety, Health, & Accident Prevention Program. This includes:

  • Assisting supervisors in conducting workplace hazard assessments to identify, evaluate, and correct hazards.
  • Providing training and technical assistance to managers and supervisors on implementation of the program.
  • Reviewing, updating, and evaluating the overall effectiveness of the program.
  • Evaluating the adequacy and consistency of training designed by schools and departments.

PLU borrows the acronym T*R*I*C*K from Stanford for remembering the five key elements of the Occupational Safety, Health, & Accident Prevention Program:

  • Training for workplace and job-specific hazards
  • Reporting and investigating accidents
  • Identifying workplace hazards
  • Correcting identified workplace hazards
  • Keeping records and documents

Members of the Safety Committee:

  • Make sure that each meeting includes a discussion of established safety topics. (WAC 296-800-13010)
  • Make sure safety committee meeting minutes are recorded and preserved. (WAC 296-800-13015)
  • Advise the Environmental Health & Safety Manager and the President’s Council on the adequacy of PLU health and safety programs, policies, and organization.
  • Recommend priorities and strategies to promote good health and safety on campus.
  • Foster coordination among those units at PLU having operational responsibility for health and safety.
  • Review and recommend to the President’s Council university-wide safety and health policies that have not yet been addressed.

The Safety Committee consists of 16 members elected by their building or department colleagues, 6 appointed members and 2 ex officio members. The Risk Manager and Environmental Health & Safety Manager hold the ex officio positions, which are non-voting, advisory positions.

Chapter 2: Health & Safety Documentation

The university wishes to create a safe and healthy work and learning environment for all of its employees and students. Employees play a critical role in ensuring that PLU meet this objective.

In the event of an accident or injury on the job, each employee is covered by the Washington State Industrial Insurance Program (Worker’s Compensation). Injury reports help the university process insurance claims and investigate and correct hazardous work conditions. The safety committee also reviews each injury report.

  • Report job-related injuries to your supervisor as soon as possible.
  • Supervisors must investigate all reported accidents to determine root causes.
  • PLU will correct causes leading to the injury.
  • As soon as the injured party is physically able to fill out the injury report, the injured employee should complete and mail the form to Human Resource Services.

Hazard reports identify hazardous equipment, environments, or practices that could cause injury, death, or occupational disease to an employee or student.

  • Report hazards to your supervisor immediately upon discovery.
  • Work with your supervisor to correct the hazard
  • Supervisors must take action to correct the hazard.
  • Report uncorrected hazards to the Environmental Health & Safety Manager by calling 253-535-7233 or submitting a safety hazard report form.

Washington Administrative Code 296-800-160 requires PLU to assess the hazards associated with a job and to assign appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE). The assessment must be documented and maintained by the supervisor. The Environmental Health & Safety Manager may assist with the assessment.

  • Supervisors must identify the tasks and hazards associated with each job position.
  • Supervisors must assign PPE as indicated by the assessment.
  • The assessment must be written. The Environmental Health & Safety Manager can provide assistance.

Chapter 3: Workplace Safety

Routine housekeeping and safety consciousness in the workplace can prevent slips, trips, and falls. Fire safety, electrical safety, office ergonomics, lifting techniques, driving safety, workplace violence awareness, and hazard communication are also important components in maintaining an illness- and injury-free work environment for PLU employees and students.

To prevent injury, several general rules should be followed:

  • Keep floors clear of debris and liquids.
  • Maintain floor coverings in good condition to avoid tripping hazards caused by loose tile and frayed carpet edging.
  • Keep designated walkways and doorways clear and free of electrical cords, boxes, and office equipment at all times.
  • When using file cabinets, only open one file drawer at a time.
  • Use proper step stools or ladders – not chairs – when climbing to reach high items.

Maintaining a fire-safe work environment is critical to preserving research work, business records and facilities, as well as the personal safety of every member of our community.

  •  Know the location of fire alarm pull boxes, exits, and fire extinguishers.
  • Only use a fire extinguisher when you have been trained to use one effectively. Otherwise evacuate the building and get help.
  • Keep exit corridors and stairways free from waste paper, boxes, dirty rags, and other combustible storage.
  • Keep fire doors closed, except doors equipped with automatic closing devices.
  • Turn off or unplug electrical appliances, such as coffee makers, at the end of each working day.
  • Place portable heaters at least 36 inches away from combustible materials such as paper, clothing, or curtains.
  • Participate in fire drills.

Almost all workplace areas have the potential to present serious electrical hazards. To protect yourself, follow these important guidelines:

  • Use extension cords that are appropriately rated for the equipment with which they will be used.
  • Avoid the use of extension cords as permanent wiring.
  • Be sure the work surface is dry before operating electrical devices.
  • Use GFCI (Ground Fault Circuit Interrupt) receptacles, especially where work areas might become wet. You may not be able to tell whether an outlet is GFCI by just looking at it. Contact Plant Services for help.
  • Never unplug equipment by pulling on the cord. Pull on the plug itself.
  • Replace frayed or damaged cords.
  • Ensure that electrical cords are not damaged by being wedged against furniture or doors.
  • Do not run cords under carpeting.
  • Only plug one piece of equipment into each outlet to prevent electrical fires. If more than one socket is needed, use an approved power strip with circuit breaker. Do not “daisy chain” extension cords and/or power strips.

Ergonomics is the science of adapting tasks, machines, and the workspace to the capacities and limitations of the human form, in order to promote the health and safety of the worker. Ergonomic wellness in the office can be realized by following these guidelines:

  • Educate yourself about the potential risks associated with prolonged repetitive motion and make the necessary adjustments to achieve the best “fit” for your work station.
  • Avoid performing similar tasks for long durations. Take frequent short breaks or use alternate activities to break up long stretches of work, especially when using a computer for extended periods.
  • Utilize proper body posture during work tasks.
  • Adjust lighting sources to avoid glare.

Knowing how to lift and carry items may prevent you from experiencing the all-too-common back injury.

  • Stretch just as you would before exercising.
  • Use tools, such as a hand truck, to help lift and carry the object.
  • Ask for assistance.
  • Keep your ears, shoulders, and hips aligned and square.
  • Lift with your legs, not with your back.
  • Turn your feet. Do not twist your back.
  • Hold the object close to your body.

The campus, excluding the parking lots, is a pedestrian zone. Employees whose job requires them to drive must observe the following procedures.

  • Get certified by Campus Safety to drive a university vehicle.
  • Observe the 5mph speed limit on campus.
  • Only drive licensed vehicles – no golf carts – on public roads.
  • Park the vehicle when distracted, such as when using a cell phone or radio.
  • Sit in a seat and use the seatbelt. Seatbelt use is mandatory for all vehicle occupants when the vehicle is in motion.
  • Park the vehicle if you feel it is mechanically unsafe to drive.
  • Report all accidents to Campus Safety (253-535-7911) immediately. Campus Safety contacts PLU Risk Management to open an insurance investigation.

Pacific Lutheran University strives to provide employees and students a safe environment in which to live and work. Therefore, the university does not tolerate violence or threats of violence on campus.

  • Any person experiencing or observing imminent violence should call Campus Safety at 253-535-7911.
  • Report any acts or threats of violence to Campus Safety or Human Resources. Such reports will be promptly and thoroughly investigated.
  • Attend a workplace violence training session when offered by Human Resource Services. For more information about upcoming sessions, call 253-535-7185 or e-mail humr@plu.edu.

Workers have a right to know the hazards of the products that they use or may be exposed to in their jobs. The hazard communication regulation (WAC 296-800-170) ensures this right by making employers responsible for communicating hazards to employees.

  • Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) describe the hazards associated with a product and suggest protective measures. They are produced and provided by product manufacturers.
  • PLU supervisors are responsible for educating employees about the hazards of the products they work around and how to control or protect themselves from those hazards. Use the MSDS to assist with training.
  • An MSDS must be on site and accessible to employees for all hazardous products on the PLU campus.
  • Maintain a list or inventory for all the hazardous products you have on site.
  • A copy of the updated MSDS must be forwarded to the Environmental Health & Safety Manager.
  • All containers of hazardous product must be labeled with the name of the product and the primary hazard, such as “toxic,” “flammable,” “carcinogenic,” or “corrosive.” You can find this information on the MSDS.
  • Discontinued product MSDS must be maintained on site. Please forward the MSDS for the discontinued product to the Environmental Health & Safety Manager along with the date that it was discontinued. For more information on Material Safety Data Sheets, go to http://www.chem.plu.edu/openlab/msds_database

Chapter 4: Emergency Preparedness

An earthquake, fire, or serious injury can occur at any time. To protect yourself, you need to know what to do in an emergency. PLU buildings have Emergency Assembly Points (EAP) away from the building. Your Emergency Building Coordinator (EBC) will have information on what to do during an emergency. Familiarize yourself with emergency evacuation procedures, locate your EAP, and know your EBC.

Emergency: An unforeseen event that calls for immediate action to protect individuals, the environment, or property.

Health-Threatening Emergency: An emergency in which there is a clear potential for serious injury to a person when immediate action is not taken. If in doubt, consider the emergency health-threatening.

In the event of a health-threatening emergency:

  • Call for help: Dial 7911 on a campus phone, call 253-535-7911 on a mobile phone, or activate a campus help station. If you are not on campus, call 911 first.
  • In case of fire, pull a fire alarm pull station, evacuate the building immediately, and call 253-535-7911 as soon as it is safe to do so.
  • Go to the emergency assembly point and check in with the emergency coordinator.
  • If there is a threat of violence, please remain in the building and secure your work area against the threat.
  • Please follow the directions provided by Campus Safety and/or your emergency coordinator. They will have the most current information available.

A major earthquake is one of the most significant emergency risks at PLU. The best defense is being prepared by planning ahead.

  • Before an earthquake, survey your office, classroom or laboratory for conditions that would pose hazards in an earthquake, and find a safe place for cover in each location.
  • Know your department’s earthquake emergency evacuation plan and your Emergency Assembly Point.
  • In the event of an earthquake, Drop, Cover, and Hold. As soon as the initial shock is over, calmly leave the building, taking only essentials such as glasses, medication, keys, and wallet with you. Go to your Emergency Assembly Point. Do not go back into the building until it is cleared for re-entry.
  • The campus emergency plan states that Olson Auditorium and the Anderson University Center (or alternative space, if these designated areas are damaged) will be cleared for occupancy as quickly as possible. The Emergency Operations Team will give your emergency building coordinator the latest information.
  • Develop a home earthquake preparedness plan with your family.

  • Evacuate the fire area. Close the door behind you to contain the fire.
  • Report the fire by pulling a fire alarm pull station and then call 911 when in a safe location.
  • Use the nearest exit or stairway. Do not use elevators.
  • Drop and crawl when smoke is present.
  • Go to your Emergency Assembly Point.

Chapter 5: Chemical & Laboratory Safety

The PLU science building has laboratories that use over one thousand different chemicals. The Chemical Hygiene Officer and Environmental Health & Safety Manager work with departments to promote the safe use, storage, and disposal of chemicals. The Radiation Safety Officer oversees radiological safety.

Chemical safety in laboratories is addressed in The Chemical Hygiene Plan (WAC 296-62-40009), which includes the following elements in addition to laboratory-specific requirements developed by departments and faculty.

  • Labeling: Chemical containers shall be labeled with the full chemical name, associated hazard, and other appropriate safety information. (WAC 296-62-40015)
  • Safety Data Sheets (SDS): Each department shall maintain an SDS for each currently used or stored hazardous substance. SDS shall be readily accessible to faculty, staff, and students. If a supplier fails to provide an SDS, get a copy from the manufacturer by calling the phone number on the container or from the manufacturer’s web site. (WAC 296-62-40015)
  • Hazard Communication/Training(WAC 296-62-40011) Laboratory directors, chairs, and supervisors are responsible for informing and training employees and students about hazardous substances in their work areas. The Chemical Hygiene Officer works closely with Natural Sciences personnel to provide technical support.
  • Chemical Inventories: (UFC 8001) The laboratory director, chairs, and supervisor are responsible for maintaining an up-to-date inventory of the hazardous substances in each laboratory. Contact the Chemical Hygiene Office or Environmental Health & Safety Manager if you have questions.
  • Chemical Storage: All chemicals, including gases, shall be stored in accordance with local, state, and federal chemical storage regulations.
  • Inspections: The Chemical Hygiene Plan states that a departmentally appointed person shall inspect the facilities on a monthly basis and report the findings to the Chemical Hygiene Officer. The Chemical Hygiene Officer will inspect the facilities semi-annually and forward the findings to the Environmental Health & Safety Manager.

The PLU Radiation Safety Officer has the authority granted by the University’s Radioactive Materials License, issued by the State of Washington Department of Health. Anyone planning to use materials or devices that pose potential radiation hazards shall first contact the Radiation Safety Officer at 253-535-6181.

Laboratory Director Responsibilities

The Laboratory Director is Responsible for:

  • Labeling hazard areas and posting appropriate hazard signs on the door. The signs shall include the name and phone number of the investigator, faculty member, or laboratory director responsible for the activities of each lab.
  • Training laboratory personnel in appropriate work practices and emergency procedures.
  • Making sure containment and control facilities are adequate for the proposed research.
  • Labeling, storing, and using hazardous agents in compliance with local, state, and federal regulations and university policy.
  • Providing personal protective equipment as needed.
  • Maintaining an up-to-date inventory of hazardous agents in the laboratory and informing employees of hazards.

Chapter 6: Chemical, Radioactive, & Biological Waste

Some of the teaching, research, and patient care activities conducted at PLU result in the generation of chemical, biological, or radioactive wastes. While there is a myriad of complex laws and regulations governing hazardous waste disposal, following are some principal guidelines.

Please make every effort to minimize your waste stream through:

  • Recycling
  • Using less hazardous chemical substitutes
  • Keeping inventories of potentially redundant materials
  • Buying smaller quantities
  • Using micro-scale experimentation

All research personnel can work together to reduce the volume of hazardous wastes generated by the university.

  • The PLU Hazardous Waste Management program provides guidelines for storing and disposing of chemical waste.
  • The Chemical Hygiene Officer (253-535-7558) or Environmental Health & Safety Manager will provide you with the guidelines and explain to you the specific requirements of segregation and labeling.
  • Make sure that chemical waste does not get into the general waste stream or go down the drain, and that it is not disposed of by intentional fume hood evaporation.
  • For training on how to manage chemical waste, contact the Director EHS&EP at 253-535-7233.
  • For chemical waste pickup, call the Chemical Hygiene Officer at 253-535-7558 or PLU Facilities Management at 253-535-7380.

Make sure that radioactive waste does not get into the general waste stream. DO NOT MIX chemical or biological waste with radioactive waste. For disposal procedures, contact the RSO at 253-535-7550.

  • Make sure that biological waste does not get into the general waste stream. Deposit biological waste in a biohazard waste bin. Environmental Services will pick up infectious waste and deliver it to the Biology Department for treatment.
  • Medical waste shall go into the special orange plastic waste bags that are labeled with the universal biohazard symbol or with the word “Biohazard” or “Biohazardous Waste” and provided by the Biology Department.
  • Sharps, such as needles or syringes, contaminated with blood or other potentially infectious materials shall be placed into a rigid plastic sharps container.
  • Sharps that are not contaminated must also be contained in a rigid container

Chapter 7: Regulatory Overview

The Environmental Health & Safety Manager is often asked by employees, “Why do I have to do chemical inventories or medical surveillance, or handle chemical or infectious waste in this particular manner?” The answer is most often, “Because it’s required by the Tacoma Pierce County Health Department (TPCHD), Occupational Safety & Health Act (OSHA) regulations, or the Environmental Protection Agency.”

Several people at PLU can provide compliance assistance to help employees identify rules, regulations, policies, and procedures that affect their work.

  • The Environmental Health & Safety Manager oversees safety, health, and environmental regulatory compliance for the entire university.
  • The Chemical Hygiene Officer oversees chemical handling. The Radiation Safety Officer oversees radiological safety within the Natural Sciences division.
  • The Risk Manager, Director of Campus Safety, and Human Resource Services may also be able to provide guidance on safety issues.
  • Safety Committee Inspection Team members regularly visit operating areas to answer questions and highlight issues of compliance concern. The team deals with fire and physical hazards, chemical handling, biosafety, and other life safety issues.

More than 13 different regulatory agencies have some jurisdiction over health, safety, and the environment at PLU. The following list provides some idea of the range of regulatory agencies the university works with.

University Environmental Health & Safety Manager, Chemical Hygiene Officer, and Radiation Safety Officer

  • Chemical Waste
  • Biological Waste
  • Radioactive Waste
  • Radiation Safety/Health Physics
  • Fire Safety
  • Hazardous Materials Management
  • Environmental Compliance
  • Industrial Hygiene
  • General Safety
  • Biological Safety
  • Training and Communications
  • Programs Management and Compliance

While there are numerous potential risks governed by safety and environmental regulations, we find that most injuries at PLU occur from overexertion of the back. Other common injuries are caused by slips and falls and being struck by or against an object.

Chapter 8: Other Safety Information

The PLU Occupational Safety, Health, and Accident Prevention Program, Personnel Manual, Campus Safety Office, and Office of Risk Management have information on many more safety topics. If you would like more information on the following topics, please contact the appropriate office.

  • Asbestos Awareness
  • Bloodborne Pathogens, Infectious Waste, and First Aid
  • Confined Spaces
  • Electrical Safety
  • Emergency Operations Plan
  • Emergency Procedures Handbook
  • Forklift Operation
  • Grounds – Power Mowers
  • Hazard Communication
  • Hazardous Waste Management Plan
  • Lock Out/Tag Out
  • Office Safety
  • Operating University Vehicles
  • Pollution Prevention Plan
  • Respiratory Protection Program
  • Smoking Policy
  • Thermal Stress
  • Tools, Equipment, and Personal Protective Equipment
  • Welding

  • Accident Reports
  • Back to Work Policy
  • Drug and Alcohol Free Workplace
  • Emergency Aid
  • Personal Safety
  • Pets in the Workplace Policy
  • Policy on Smoking
  • Possession of Weapons
  • Standards of Personal Conduct
  • Wellness Program

  • Driver Training Video and Vehicle Operation Test
  • Escort Service
  • Emergency Medical Response
  • Emergency Phone Station Response
  • Emergency Reporting

  • Waivers and Indemnification
  • Vehicle Claims Reporting
  • General Claims Reporting
  • Legal Questions

Credits

The document Health and Safety at Stanford: Introduction and Overview from Environmental, Health, and Safety (EH&S) at Stanford University was used with permission as the basis for Introduction to Health and Safety at PLU.  PLU’s Environmental Health and Safety Manager prepared the document. It was reviewed by the university safety committee, other interested or affected employees, and the Vice President of Finance & Operations, Sheri Tonn.