EHS (Belatedly) Celebrates Departmental Anniversaries

August 12, 2022

Yale Environmental Health and Safety (EHS) staff celebrated the department’s 30th anniversary along with the 20th anniversary of the Safety Advisor Program on August 10th with a luncheon at the Greenberg Conference Center. The celebration was delayed a year due to COVID-19.

The Office of University Safety was formed on January 1, 1989, and reported directly to the Office of the Provost, as it does today. Prior to that time, departments responsible for occupational and environmental health and safety at Yale were spread across campus in smaller groups. The reorganization initially included the Departments of Biological Safety (including environmental safety), Chemical Safety, and Radiation Safety. The Department of Occupational Safety was renamed the Division of Physical Safety and was later moved from the Human Resources Department to the Office of University Safety. The reorganization tasked the Office of University Safety with being responsible for enforcement of university and governmental safety regulations and the development and improvement of safety training programs for faculty, staff, and students.

In June of 1991, these groups came together in a centralized location at 135 College Street, Suite 100 and the department eventually renamed Yale’s Office of Environmental Health and Safety.

Shortly after, the Environmental Affairs Section was formed to bring together regulatory and compliance experts as well as staff to manage the disposal of all hazardous and otherwise regulated waste on campus. The Environmental Affairs Section is located in Wright Lab West, Room 393, at 268 Whitney Avenue.

Dr. Stephanie Spangler, vice provost for health affairs and academic integrity and the university’s COVID-19 coordinator, spoke at the luncheon and said she has been working with EHS for nearly three decades. She praised EHS for dealing with changing regulations and “emergency after emergency” over the years.

“You are models of a culture of inclusion, partnership, tireless commitment, and caring,” she told the staff.

Cynthia Smith, associate provost for health affairs & academic integrity, said EHS has “unfailingly supported Yale’s missions” throughout the years and that was put on display in the past few years during the pandemic.

“Most people realize now how critical your work is to the university,” Smith said.

The Safety Advisor program formally began in 2001 with 12 safety advisors and three safety advisor technicians. In its 20th year, the program has grown to 18 safety advisors and four safety advisor technicians. Safety advisors are health and safety specialists assigned to a geographic area within the Yale community to assist you in finding solutions to health and safety problems. They work cooperatively with you to provide information, training, and technical expertise along with assisting in the interpretation of regulatory requirements. By being assigned specific areas of campus, safety advisors are able to provide a more personalized service.

“We all love helping people and the Safety Advisor program and EHS have afforded us the opportunity to do that,” said Ben Fontes, Yale’s biosafety officer and co-manager of the Safety Advisor program.

Peter Reinhardt, EHS strategic advisor and former EHS director who will retire at the end of the year, told the group it is the people that make the programs and processes successful.

“It’s your dedication and hard work that make the difference if we succeed or fail,” he said. “We are all part of the caring profession.”

Several staff members shared their experiences and memories throughout the years and newer staff members spoke about the welcoming and fulfilling environment at EHS.

Kevin Charbonneau, executive director of EHS, stressed that it takes a team for the department to be successful and praised how the group came together during the pandemic.

“None of you were doing it because you wanted to get recognized by the university, but all of you were doing it because you wanted to be part of helping during this event,” Charbonneau said. “I’m excited to see where we go and what you will do in the next 10, 20, 30 years and beyond.”

To see more photos from the event, visit the Yale EHS Facebook page.