University Community

Ohio University’s Safety Department plays key role with research, campus life

The Ohio University Safety Department works tirelessly across all of OHIO’s campuses to ensure the University is meeting safety requirements and is in compliance with research regulations.

Part of the Office of Facilities Management, the Safety Department provides technical expertise related to potential health and safety issues such as asbestos, mold and air quality concerns, and environmental protection. As such, the Safety Department interacts with the University community in a wide variety of ways.

Director of Safety Dr. Brent Mattox explained that the work of the Safety Department varies depending on the perceived hazard. On any given day, Safety staff members may be monitoring air quality on one of the regional campuses, inspecting laboratory equipment on another campus or conducting essential training. On another day they may be responding to reports of chemical spills or odors, assuring compliance with environmental regulations or conducting environmental assessments.

According to Mattox, the Safety Department’s work involves certain key steps. Those steps include the anticipation and recognition of safety and environmental hazards, careful evaluation of the potential effects those hazards might have on the Ohio University community, and providing recommendations for proper control or elimination of hazards.

The Safety Department also plays an important role in OHIO’s research laboratories, checking safety equipment such as the fume hoods and fire extinguishers, inspecting the safety showers and eye wash stations, and assuring waste chemicals are being properly disposed of.

The Safety Department also provides fit testing and evaluation of personal protective equipment, ensuring laboratories are utilizing the correct gloves, masks and other safety equipment. If supplied air respirators are required for the labs, the Safety Department staff members also make sure that the equipment meets compliance and provides adequate protection.

Radiation safety is also very important at Ohio University, and the Radiation Safety personnel of the Safety Department perform laboratory audits, assist with waste disposal, offer technical assistance and ensure that laboratory personnel and departments meet all requirements.

“As our institution has transitioned to an R1 Research Institution, we are making sure the permits for radiological research on our campuses are all in place and ensuring that we are following all of the necessary protocols,” Chief Facilities Management Officer Steve Wood said.

While the Safety Department works with the new equipment and facilities, it still has traditional work on campus, too. That work may include applying pesticides when needed, responding to questions about bedbugs, and even catching woodchucks, squirrels and bats that have gotten into buildings.

The Safety team also monitors noise levels and light levels in different areas on the OHIO campuses. In addition, the staff members conduct traffic surveys when appropriate and respond to requests to investigate suspicious odors.

Staff members also hold training programs for the University community and take part in professional development for their respective areas.

The Safety Department is also responsible for monitoring safety equipment such as the more than 3,000 fire extinguishers that must be inspected monthly. Safety is also involved with the fire monitoring systems on campus and conducts fire drills in the dormitories.

Perhaps the most surprising aspect of the Safety Department is that it only has nine full-time staff members who are responsible for all of these efforts. Mattox added that “although we can’t be everywhere, we use remote monitoring and feedback from faculty, students and staff to direct resources.”

Wood is proud of the staff members and how they assist the University community with their knowledge and experience.

“There is a lot of expertise over here,” Wood said. “As part of the campus community, you are either interacting with a safety system the Safety Department is monitoring or dealing directly with the Safety Department.”

This article only touches on part of the essential work that the Safety Department performs at Ohio University. For more information, see the Safety Department website or call at 740-593-1666 or email the department at

May 4, 2022
Staff reports