CTR Home Internal  Relations and Communications Home About CTR Publication Schedule CTR Archives

November 8, 2001 Students are stakeholders in safety



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 university’s 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 the Faculty.

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 activities.

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.