Healthy, Safe & Well

Healthy, Safe & Well

June Updates

National organizations sponsor monthly observances throughout the year to bring awareness to a variety of topics. Highlighted below are just a few health, safety, and wellness related topic for awareness in June.

HEalthy: Alzheimer's and Brain Awareness Month

Join the Alzheimer's Association to raise awareness to end Alzheimer's and other dementias. Take action by wearing purple, the official color of the Alzheimer's movement and join the conversation using the hashtag #ENDALZ. It is estimated 50 million people worldwide are living with this condition. Learn the 10 signs that indicate when memory loss is differing from the typical part of memory changes of aging.


SAfe:  June is safety month

The National Safety Council observes Safety Month each June and themes each week to bring awareness and provide resources on specific topics to keep you safe at work, at home and on the road.

Week 1 - Prevent Incidents Before They Start: Identify risks, take proactive measures, and reduce the potential for hazardous exposure to keep your workplace as safe as possible. EHS has a few tools to help you assess your need for Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), analyze the safety of each job task, and some training on risk assessments.

Week 2 - Address Ongoing COVID-19 Safety Concerns: As we navigate the new normal and begin to return to a more occupied campus, the University continues to provide resources through the main COVID-19 webpage and be sure to visit Human Resources Work Reimagined.

Week 3 - It's Vital to Feel Safe on the Job: Feeling safe at work is vital to inclusive culture of safety. The U has several offices and departments dedicated to providing a workplace that is as safe, inclusive, and secure as possible. Visit #SAFEU to learn where you can receive support, get help, review policies, and/or report concerns.

Week 4 - Advance Your Safety Journey: Safety is a journey of continuous improvement. Talk to your safety committee about your ideas for improvement in your area.


Well:  PTSD Awareness Month

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs observes PTSD Awareness Month because although treatment has been found to be effective, most people who have PTSD don't get the help they need. It is their goal to raise awareness so everyone with PTSD - Veterans and civilians, survivors of assault, accidents, disasters or other trauma - knows treatments do work and can lead to a better quality of life.

Wednesday Water Cooler Talks

Wednesday Water Cooler Talks

Join members of the College of Science virtually on Wednesdays listed below from 3-3:30pm for a chance to connect and find out how your colleagues stay Healthy, Safe, and Well. The next two topics are included below, but we need your help to fill out the following Wednesdays. Submit your ideas here or during a Wednesday Water Cooler Talk.

June 16, 3pm - Are you ready for Summer reading? We'll be talking about book clubs!

Through our planning session, we've identified the following book clubs to get us all reading and more importantly sharing our thoughts and perspectives on books. To get us started, the following two categories emerged, so join us at the virtual water cooler to pick a book and get stared! RSVP here for a calendar invite.

    • Fiction or Non-fiction with a take on our sciences: Biology, Chemistry, Math, and Physics & Astronomy
    • Personal and/or Professional development

July 14, 3pm - An Introduction to Google Analytics

Matt Crawley will lead the session where you will learn how to pull relevant web stats using Google Analytics. See where your users are coming from, what content they are viewing, and how they found you. Join us to learn more or RSVP for a calendar invite.

Recent talks

May 26, Parks in Utah

With summer upon us, parks are a great way to get away from the daily grind, explore and rejuvenate. We discussed a southern road trip to hit the National Parks, highlighted some of the less crowded state parks along the way, and pointed out some of our favorite local parks and activities. Find resources for your road trip here.

May 12 - David Thomas led us in a discussion of hiking and biking.

Hiking and biking are fantastic ways to spend time in nature, get exercise, calm the mind and restore the soul. Here in Salt Lake, we are incredibly fortunate to have a plethora of both biking and hiking trails right outside our doors. In this Wednesday Water Cooler Talk, David highlighted hikes by geographical locations: The City, The Foothills, The Wasatch Mtns. and Beyond. Check out this link for more resources.

April 14, 2021 - Working up a head of STEAM

One aspect of wellness for many of us is having a creative life. This involves engaging in what’s been called the creatives industry: art, humanities, culture (including design, cuisine and architecture) as either a participant or an observer—or both. David Pace led the discussion of the opportunities we have in the Beehive State to get our creative juices flowing,  how creativity is a part of STEM, and some favorites from College of Science members. Click here for resources.


Do you have an idea for a future talk? Use this form to let us know.

A Catalyst for Safety

A Catalyst for Safety

In June 2019, a chemical spill in a Department of Chemistry laboratory led to a full department shutdown until a comprehensive safety assessment could be completed. Within days, most laboratories re-opened. Within weeks, the department had put into motion an unprecedented safety makeover in partnership with the Office of Environmental Health and Safety (EHS) and the College of Science. Since then, the college and EHS have enacted creative solutions to rebuild a culture of lab safety from the ground up—and it has paid dividends in implementing safeguards related to COVID-19.

Tommy Primo

“Everyone from the department level up to the President’s Office has made significant changes to how the U regulates laboratory safety,” said Peter Trapa, dean of the College of Science. “By the time COVID-19 hit, we had the right infrastructure, the right coordination between EHS and our own folks, so that we could quickly lead out in the COVID era.”

Committed committees

Matthew Sigman

At the time of the spill, the U’s laboratory safety culture had been through a series of internal and external audits, including one by the Utah State Legislature. The reports identified crucial gaps in safety and made recommendations for improvement. The U has made significant progress addressing these recommendations, including establishing and expanding the number and authority of college and departmental-level safety committees. Within the College of Science, the Departments of Chemistry, Mathematics, Physics & Astronomy and the School of Biological Sciences all have committees made up of staff and faculty who performed routine lab inspections and reported violations. The previous safety system’s structure allowed some violations to remain unresolved. Now, the committees are empowered to recommend how violations get addressed. They’ve also expanded their scope to include postdocs and graduate students who can make suggestions for outdated practices or areas that need attention. In the coming weeks, safety committees will be required in all University colleges.

“To change the safety culture, there has to be the motivation, and it has to be a grassroots effort,” said Matthew Sigman, Peter J. Christine S. Stang Presidential Endowed Chair of Chemistry. “This is a success because it’s collaborative, it’s conversational, and it’s pragmatic. It’s about building relationships and getting buy-in from the top down.”

Sarah Morris-Benavides

In January, EHS and the College of Science jointly hired Sarah Morris-Benavides as the first associate director of safety for the College. Morris-Benavides facilitates communication between researchers, and helps translate regulatory protocols between the college and EHS. She also heads the College of Science’s safety committee that is made up of the department committee chairs. She and the committees have worked closely to ensure that classes and research are conducted safely in light of the coronavirus restrictions.

“I can’t tell you how valuable they’ve been,” said Morris-Benavides of the response to COVID-19. “We had a great benefit that these committees were already established and in place.”

Every month, the college safety committee meets to discuss each department’s safety protocols. “We have the ability to say, ‘Well, here’s something that they’re doing in biology. Does that make sense for physics?” she said. “Chemistry learned a lot from their amazing safety turnaround, and they’ve shared their best practices. It all benefits every department.”

Precipitating solutions

Selma Kadic

The U overhauled the previous laboratory safety system by restructuring EHS directly under the Vice President for Research Office, and Frederick Monette became its new director. This helped rebuild trust between the EHS and researchers, who had historically been at odds.

“Fred Monette was all in right away. His willingness to sit down with people, listen to their concerns, and back it up financially meant a lot to the people in the department,” said Holly Sebahar, professor of chemistry who was the chair of the chemistry safety committee at the time of the shutdown.

Safety violations can be complicated; some are easy fixes, such as ensuring lab members wear proper PPE, but other issues are expensive, such as electrical or ventilation upgrades within older buildings. Traditionally, the burden of arranging infrastructure upgrades and their cost often fell solely on the principal investigator (PI) of the laboratory in question.

Angus Wu

To change that, EHS and the College of Science lobbied for an infrastructure improvement project to fund overdue, expensive safety upgrades in College of Science buildings, many of which were identified as deficiencies during the chemistry shutdown. The resulting $1 million capital improvement project will address electrical upgrades, seismic bracing, and ventilation improvements in several buildings, beginning in January 2021. Addressing these deficiencies in one comprehensive project will be much quicker, more economical, and result in less disruption to laboratory operations compared with the past approach of fixing each issues one by one at the request of individual laboratories.

Working with the College of Science, the VPR Office facilitated the purchase of 20 new refrigerator/freezers rated for storage of flammable chemicals to replace units that failed to meet regulatory requirements, sharing the cost 50/50 with the PIs. These initiatives demonstrated the administration’s commitment to promoting a culture of safety across the university.

From the ground up

As another example of a changed safety culture, the Department of Chemistry aims to incorporate safety in all aspects of academic life. Every speaker, seminar and many group meetings now incorporate a ‘safety moment,’ with each presenter asked to share an example of a safety incident and how they addressed it.

Shelley Minteer

“We have upwards of 30 or 40 external visitors a year. That’s a lot of safety moments. They’ll walk through that experience, then walk through the lab procedures to fix the problem,” Sigman said. “It’s a lessons learned, but also it’s an open conversation. We want to have the lowest risk, but we know when you sign up to be a chemist, you have the danger. Even when you cross the t’s, dot the i’s, something can happen.”

The collaborations go beyond the science—last year, EHS, the College of Science and the College of Mines and Earth Sciences co-hosted a two-day lab safety symposium with speakers and training sessions that addressed all types of issues, from chemical storage to creating effective safety committees. More than 400 staff, students and faculty attended the mandatory event to emphasize that every individual is responsible to making their environment safe. The U is applying that same philosophy for COVID-19.

“As we started going through the safety culture changes, we realized that it’s not that students or post docs or faculty won’t follow safety protocols, they will, if they know where they are, if they can find the paperwork,” said Shelley Minteer, associate chair for faculty for the Department of Chemistry and COVID-19 coordinator for the department. “We learned a lot from the safety ramp up. We need clear guidelines and good communication. We’ve been applying those same principles to COVID.”


by Lisa Potter - first published in @theU


Safety Commitee

Safety Committee

The College has an established safety committee consisting of the Dean or their representative, Chairs of each departmental safety committee or departmental nominee, and the Associate Director of Safety for the College. This committee is charged with communicating and ensuring compliance with University requirements and directives, serving as a resource to faculty, staff, and students, and developing plans and initiatives to meet requirements while promoting a culture of safety.

The committee has identified objectives to improve safety across the College during the 2020 and 2021 Academic years. Progress toward the objectives is measured through planning, discussion, and reports at committee meetings. Ideas for areas of improvement can be communicated through departmental safety committees or directly to a college safety committee member.

Current members

David Carrier

School of Biological Sciences

Charlie Jui

Physics and Astronomy

Peter Trapa

Dean, College of Science

Aaron Fogelson


Ryan Looper


Sarah Morris-Benavides

College of Science/EHS

Committee Resources


Safety Resources

The University is currently operating in the Orange Phase. Research activities allowable under the orange phase can be found here.