by Barbara Black
Vice-Rector Services Michael Di Grappa made a presentation recently to
representatives of CREPUQ, the assembly of Quebec universities, in which
he described the approach Concordia has developed toward the health and
safety of its constituency.
This includes working with students as partners and stakeholders. As Di
Grappa pointed out, the university is liable for students safety
on campus. They can refuse to do work they consider to be dangerous, and
they can sue the university in extreme cases.
The university provides them with supervision, safety instruction and
information regarding risks, and emergency information. They have access
to the universitys Environmental Health and Safety (EH&S) office,
and all its services and resources.
Students also have responsibilities regarding safety. For example, they
can be barred from a laboratory for breaking safety rules, or not wearing
personal protective equipment. They, like university employees, are expected
to report hazards and accidents.
Graduate students present a special challenge, Di Grappa told his audience.
Many are under contract to the university for services as research
and teaching assistants and residence advisors, for example and
in this capacity, should be considered as employees. Graduate students
often work long hours under minimum supervision, at odd hours, and with
skeleton support services, and may not recognize this change in status.
Some work under the same person who is evaluating their academic performance,
so they may be reluctant to speak out if they run into health and safety
problems. Concordia provides them with training and information as a condition
of their contract. Although EH&S participates in this service, the
organization and scheduling of this training is the responsibility of
In general, collective safety equipment is provided, although students
have to buy their own personal protective equipment, such as respirators,
safety boots and prescription eyeglasses.
Di Grappa acknowledged that some areas need more development of policy.
One challenge is assessing the risk and appropriate level of supervision
of some student activities, such as controversial speakers, student-run
food services and special events. Another is health and safety at off-campus
In general, Di Grappa said, universities should adopt a more comprehensive
approach towards risk management, looking to work being done in some other
universities, such as Ryerson, Calgary and York.
However, he concluded, we must not lose sight of the
fact that while we need to control costs, health and safety has more to
do with organizational values and social responsibility than with money.
Di Grappa gave his talk at a meeting of CREPUQ at the École des
Haute Études Commerciales on October 26.