Staff Gets Forklift Certified – ECOS Emphasizes Safety for All
Northeastern University’s Office of Environmental Health & Safety (EH&S) recently split into the Office of Academic and Research Safety (OARS) and the Environmental Compliance and Occupational Safety office (ECOS). ECOS is the facilities side of safety whereas OARS deals with lab equipment and potential biohazards. Some facilities crews who will end up working in buildings with labs will have to work with both departments.
Jason Hewitt, who is the Occupational Health and Safety Program Manager at PREF, is looking forward to engaging with more facilities employees and creating more specific training.
This year, ECOS is requiring all facilities staff to do online safety training modules that will take 10 hours in total. Currently, 49 staff members have completed it. Supervisors encourage and allow their employees to take it on the clock.
“To me, whenever anybody thinks of safety, it’s a win,” Hewitt said. “Because the more you think about it, the more you’re aware of whatever hazards were around you. Obviously, the safer you’re going to perform the task that you’re working on.”
Previously, staff were trained using BioRAFT lessons, but they switched to safety skills once EH&S was split into OARS and ECOS. The modules became available last August, and staff members have until this August to complete them. The safety skills trainings are accessible online or on a mobile device and prides itself on being user friendly. Previously, some trainings were in person which were not convenient and accessible for all.
Hewitt, with the help of Bob Middendorf and Carol Welch, recently helped trades workers to become forklift certified or renew their certification.
Northeastern has three forklifts in total, one for athletics, one at Gainsborough garage and one at the Jamaica Plain Warehouse. In total, 74 people completed the training and are now officially forklift certified. They all received small laminated forklift licenses which will expire in three years. The next training in three years will likely have more participants according to Hewitt.
There were multiple classes, and all included a morning and afternoon shift so that more people were able to make it. Due to the nature of their work, attendees would occasionally have to resolve a crisis on campus and would miss the trainings last minute.
Bill Kershaw, the owner of Safety Equipped, Inc. facilitated the trainings and final testing and Hewitt said that his trainings were well received among attendees.
Hewitt says that between the EH&S split and staff shortages there has been a lot of “moving parts,” but he looks forward to seeing how the safety skills program and forklift training is moving them in the right direction.
Hewitt recently tabled at the NUPD Preparedness Day event on Thursday Mach 23 where he raised awareness about the EH&S change and to promote safety Skills and what other training opportunities ECOS can offer to other departments within the Northeastern University community.
“The idea is to give them a little bit of knowledge. So, when they see something, they know enough to stop, raise their hand, ask the question, team up with the supervisor so that we’re doing it the right way and the safe way,” Hewitt said.
In the future, as ECOS and OARS both expand and solidify their role, Hewitt hopes to have first aid and CPR training for everybody, as well as office safety training and emergency preparedness.
Written by Renée Abbott, April 4th, 2023