Environmental, Health and Safety (EHS) continued to navigate the tricky COVID-19 pandemic realities in 2021-22, staying abreast of the most current research and public health recommendations to keep the Concordia environment as safe as possible. The team also responded to faculty, staff and student questions to alleviate their concerns regarding the return to campus, reports Pietro Gasparrini, EHS director. He adds that Concordia only had one documented case of on-campus transmission — something, he says, the university community can all be proud of.
In addition, EHS took on a substantial operational shift with the launch of its new workplace health and safety application in SAP (Systems, Applications and Products).
The new platform will help EHS fulfill its role of ensuring a safe and healthy environment for Concordians in a more efficient way. “We’ve transitioned to a fully automated system, a significant change for us,” Gasparrini explains.
The module has three components. In the reporting function, Gasparrini explains that faculty and staff can now inform the university of injuries and near-misses online through UNITY, rather than using a fillable PDF and submitting a hard copy, as had been the case in the past. The new system immediately prompts supervisors to fill out their portion of the online form and sign off. Concordians can also report through the system on behalf of someone else, for example a contractor or a student who gets injured during a teaching lab.
The second component of the module, corrective actions, flows from the first. Injury investigation and workplace inspections result in safety corrective actions with deadlines, and the new system will send a reminder and track theses to completion. Gasparrini provides an example of a corrective action his team logged in the system: “Recently, we had an employee who injured themselves using a piece of equipment. After we did our investigation, we asked the supervisor to retrain the employee on how to use that equipment. As a responsible employer, we need to document that the retraining took place and this system allows us to do that in a very efficient way.”
The final component of the module, workplace investigations, will be launched at a later date.
Gasparrini says that EHS started by testing the new platform with the Facilities Management team to get their feedback and identify any bugs in the system.
“In terms of workload for my staff, the new system has given us a little more time,” Gasparrini adds — time he says is being reinvested into return-to-work initiatives, a very important part of injury management.
He explains that an injured employee should remain close to the university while healing, and EHS works closely with the employee’s physician to assure the best path to recovery.
Gasparrini greatly appreciated the additional time his team has been able to dedicate to this aspect of their work. He also notes that a drop in the university’s insurance premium for worker compensation demonstrates the strides they’ve made. “Not only are these programs beneficial to employees and the departments where they work, but the university is also saving money,” he reports.
On the heels of an incredibly busy and challenging first year of the pandemic for EHS, the unit continued to feel the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2021-22. With the return of in-person learning in the fall, Gasparrini and his team worked hard to uphold public health guidelines and make Concordia community members feel as safe as possible on campus.
And their efforts didn’t go unnoticed. The entire EHS team received the Outstanding Staff and Faculty Award at the 2022 Alumni Recognition Awards, in recognition of the team’s innovative approach to its work and for sharing its knowledge and contributing to university community. “That was a huge highlight,” Gasparrini shares. “Everyone in the unit appreciated being recognized. It’s really rewarding to know that your community is thankful for what you did.”
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