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Safety as a Priority

Oct. 25, 2012

It should go without saying: Safety first.

Several sources of law regulate Baylor's safety obligations to employees and students, as well as to protect the rights of an individual to express concerns about safety without retaliation or reprisal. For example:

• In all activities, Baylor personnel must act reasonably--as a prudent person under the same or similar circumstances. Baylor, and the individual person who acts unreasonably, can be held responsible for personal injury that results from negligence--the failure to act reasonably under the circumstances.

• A federal statute requires any employer to provide a safe workplace for its employees, which can include students.

• In addition, the federal law prohibits an employer from taking a personnel action because the employee has "filed a complaint" about safety. A "complaint" need not have merit for the employee to be protected.

The messenger should never be the problem--the focus must be on the underlying safety concerns. Baylor must fix the problem, not hurt the messenger!

Beyond compliance with the law, all personnel should adopt a philosophy of prevention--lives and limbs are precious. In addition, avoidance of fines, penalties, liabilities and personal injuries preserves assets to fulfill the mission and Pro Futuris vision.

Here are some suggestions:

• Act as if you are personally responsible for the people and property entrusted to you--you may be!

• Think about safety and health issues in all activities.

• Use the Baylor resources (Department of Risk Management, Risk Management committees, Office of General Counsel, Internal Audit) to help assess risk and develop an action plan.

• Develop human and engineering protocols as appropriate for the operation.

• Ensure equipment is maintained appropriately and perform safety checks.

• Plan ahead on how to respond in case of unfortunate events.

• Become familiar with Baylor's Crisis Response Plan.

• Develop a culture that is receptive to the expression of concerns about safety issues. The more eyes the better.

• Remember that what you can do and what you should do are two very different decisions.

• Hope for the best, but plan for the worst.

Individuals who wish to report safety concerns are encouraged to contact the Office of General Counsel (3821), or the Department of Risk Management (6255) or to use the confidential (and anonymous if so desired) reporting system Ethicspoint website