Chapter Three: 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 (x7911) 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 x7911.
  • 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 x7185 or e-mail

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