StFXAUT Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) Session

This article, written by Suzanne van den Hoogen and Susan MacKay, appears in the Spring/Summer edition of The Beacon.

One of four information sessions offered to AUT members during this year’s StFXAUT Annual General Meeting (AGM) on May 11th was an Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) Session, hosted by Suzanne van den Hoogen, StFX Public Services Librarian and AUT JOHSC representative, and Susan MacKay, AUT Executive Assistant and JOHSC member (AUT alternate). The theme of our workshop was “Safety Starts with Me” and that each one of us is a safety leader.

We began by outlining the following goals of our workshop:

      1. Awareness + education = the prevention of accidents and incidents,
      2. Education = empowerment: Be familiar with the NS OHS Act and know your rights,
      3. How to identify the six workplace hazards, and
      4. What does safety in the workplace mean to you?

StFX’s Safety Policy and Program was designed in accordance with the Nova Scotia Occupational Health and Safety Act (NS OHS Act), under which Employers have a legal obligation to “ensure the health and safety of persons at or near the workplace” as per Article 13 Employer’s precautions and duties. Members were encouraged to become familiar with the Act.

Members were also introduced to the StFX Joint Occupational Health and Safety Committee (JOHSC) website and shown where to access the OHS Manual (JOHSC) (revised May 11, 2016), the StFX JOHSC Minutes, policies, legislation, and several useful links and resources. The 25th anniversary of the Westray Mining Tragedy, which occurred May 9, 1992 was acknowledged at this time as well.

To illustrate the importance of adhering to safety issues, a short video, Work Safe for Life – The Tape’s Story, was provided.

The workshop focused on six workplace hazards:

      1. Physical
      2. Mechanical
      3. Chemical
      4. Biological
      5. Ergonomic
      6. Psycho-social

Members were invited to consider OHS concerns within their various work environments.

The following OHS concerns were identified:


      • Weather: snowstorms, snow accumulation, snow and ice removal.
      • Cordoning off areas that are unsafe (e.g., icicles or accumulated snow on rooftops).
      • Members asked who is responsible for communication.
      • Slipping/tripping and stairs with risers.
      • The elevators in Nicholson Hall need to be fixed.
      • When the lights/power goes out, does a notice get sent out to the campus?
      • Fume hoods are always on at different settings to make sure that any volatile chemicals under the fume hoods are always vented outside. A concern was that sometimes fume hoods get shut off without any warning: who shuts them off and why aren’t the Members who have labs informed about the shutting off of these fume hoods? Who should this be reported to and what is the timeline for repairs?
      • Communication and awareness with all future construction:  a clear reporting process with timelines, proper signage, and Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS), which are emailed to the campus community.
      • Are first aid kits checked regularly and supplies replenished, and by whom?
      • Building assessments: follow-up and documentation.
      • Chemical reporting:  are all incidents reported?
      • Floor tiles torn/chipped and old carpet removed.
      • A request was made to remove the carpet in the Biology Department Chair’s Office.


      • Residue in coffee carafes due to coffee machines being left on without any water. Is there a budget for departments to buy coffee pots with emergency shut off valves to prevent this?


      • Clean equipment in food labs and follow sanitation procedures.
      • Awareness about using bleach in labs.
      • Lab safety training and resources.
      • Is there is a mechanism for inspecting labs in JBB?
      • Is there a chemical checklist?


      • More reporting and compliance.
      • Preparing for bio-terrorism, pandemics, and diseases.
      • Food safety courses for those who work in labs.
      • Fridge safety: cleaning out old food.
      • Hand washing posters in all washrooms.
      • Members asked that more hand sanitizers be placed throughout campus and who to contact to order more sanitizers as well as who pays for them.
      • Microscope lenses cleaned regularly (to avoid pinkeye).


      • Members asked about the timeline, process, and cost for ergonomic assessments and were advised to contact Janet Beaton, StFX Health & Safety Advisor, at or (902) 867-5038. Each department pays for the required ergonomic equipment.
      • Is there backup lighting everywhere on campus during power outages?
      • The LED lights in JBB are too intense and cannot be dimmed (there is not a way to control the brightness of these lights).
      • There needs to be more ergonomic support and awareness on campus.


      • Stress, bullying, violence, and anxiety.
      • Members asked about the reporting process for psycho-social concerns.

In our final slide, we presented an image of a kitchen and discussed the safety hazards.

We then asked Members to consider the following questions about their workspaces:

      • Could you trip over cords, open filing cabinet drawers, or other objects?
      • Are items secured or could they fall?
      • Do you have adequate lighting for your eyes?
      • How is your air quality?
      • Is there any mold in your work environment?
      • Have you received proper training to operate equipment?
      • Is your mouse positioned correctly for your wrist?
      • Are your feet on the floor or do you have a footrest?
      • How can you make your workspace safer?

When asked if there were any additional comments or suggestions, Members brought forth additional concerns:

      1. Not having breaks in the Lab Instructor’s (LI) schedules during the day. There needs to be time and training allocated for new Lab Instructors and breaks must be built into their schedules.
      2. Members stressed that there needs to be clearer communication, such as central reporting, expected timelines, and follow-up communication about incidents and construction projects.
      3. Internal listservs be created for each building to improve communication.

We would like to thank everyone who attended our workshop for their valuable input and commitment to making our campus community a safe one for all. This report will be presented at the next JOHSC meeting in September, 2017.

We invite you to contact us with your safety concerns to ensure they are brought to the attention of the StFX JOHSC. Best wishes for a safe and healthy Academic year!

StFXAUT AGM OHS Info Session Presentation (May 11, 2017)

OHS Resources:

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