The Voice: Winter 2001
Safety is stressed across campus
Safety is an issue for more than the agriculture department. Both campus maintenance crews and those who work in the theater department have to be aware of the possible safety hazards as they go about their work.
Campus safety is largely the responsibility of the maintenance department. Although safety has undoubtedly been emphasized as long as Dordt has been in existence, regular safety orientations and meetings began in 1992, says Stan Oordt, head of Dordt's physical plant.
A main educational effort of the maintenance department today is alerting employees to the dangers of blood-borne pathogens. A video is shown to all employees every two years and to work study students each summer and fall. The college offers hepatitis vaccines to any employees who may be or have been in contact with blood spills and stresses safety precautions in handling blood.
A second area of concern and education is learning how to use dangerous material_whether in construction or cleaning. The college provides not only information but also gloves, goggles, masks, and other protective equipment for those who must handle dangerous chemicals or for those who wish to take extra precautions. In fact, before work study students get their first paycheck they are required to view video presentations on blood-borne pathogens and hazardous materials.
In addition, students workers are trained to operate power equipment of all types and given basic safety guidelines regarding electricity. They also learn how to avoid back injuries and protect themselves from head, eye, and respiratory injuries.
The biggest problem isn't getting the information out though, says Oordt. Like Bajema, he says the biggest challenge is getting young men and women to take safety precautions as seriously as they should.
Twenty-five percent of the students take it very seriously. The others think it will never happen to them, says Oordt. His challenge is to make sure that while they are working they take the precautions required.
His observation is echoed by Simon du Toit in the theater arts department. Here, too, safety is a matter of daily concern and students must learn to handle power tools and toxic wastes in ways that are safe.
Accidents happen when people take chances because they're in a hurry. College students sometimes seem to think they are immune and are willing to take risky actions_like crawling around on the lighting grid without being attached to a harness, he says. Just this summer the rigging was replaced in Te Paske Theatre to bring it up to code and make it safe for students working the lights.
DuToit and shop supervisor Jim Van Ry also work with students to make sure proper procedures are followed as they use tools and materials. But safety issues start even earlier in the theater shop. Du Toit and the students who work with him in designing sets need to carefully determine which materials will stand up under the weight of use demanded in a particular production so actors will be safe as they perform.