Belated congratulations to Kurt!

Congratulations to Kurt Wehrmann on his well deserved promotion to Senior Fire Safety Technician in November 2018.  Kurt‘s new role includes:

  • Coordinating the schedule for inspections and testing on the Monroe Park Campus
  • Conducting fire extinguisher training for employees and students
  • Community outreach events on the MPC
  • Coordinating contractor requests for fire system shutdowns
  • Oversight of the evacuation drill schedule for MPC
While Kurt has been directly involved in many of these activities previously, he will now be taking on more responsibility for managing the day-to-day operations.
Kurt, thank you for your hard work and dedication to VCU Fire Safety.

Congrats to Luke Christopher Butts

Please join me in offering a belated congratulations to Michael Butts and his family on the arrival of Luke Christopher Butts on Monday, January 14th.  I’m sure Michael has been enjoying the sleepless nights and would welcome your comments on his sleeplessness.

Welcome to the world little Luke!

Congrats to Jon!

Jonathan Brewer recently earned his Google Cloud Certified designation.  This designation means he’s demonstrated the necessary skills to leverage Google Cloud technology in a way that can transform businesses and meaningfully impact the people and customers they serve by designing, developing, managing and administering application infrastructure and data solutions on Google Cloud Technology.  And while I already knew just how good he is with this application, earning this certification just formalizes his expertise to the world.

Please join me in congratulating Jon on this accomplishment!

SRM Work Rules

The following represents the work rules that we’ve been discussing for the department. As you read them, please keep in mind that nothing here changes or modifies VCU policy. Additionally, it is ultimately the need of our customers that determines the work schedule. Therefore, if the need changes, then any approvals may change as well.


Work Rules for SRM Employees

 Alternative (Flexible) Work Schedules

The Safety and Risk Management Department (SRM) recognizes that its employees may require flexibility in the work week to meet the demands of work-life balance. SRM views alternative work schedules (AWS) as a valuable benefit when it supports the vision and the needs of the University. This procedure is to be used as a guideline for determining what AWS options are available for SRM employees. All AWS must be approved by department managers or directors, in addition to complying with applicable State and Federal Laws (e.g., Fair Labor Standard Act, OSHA).


All SRM employees who have the approval of their supervisor and who:

  • Have completed their probationary period and remain in good standing with the University;
  • Can demonstrate effective time management and prioritization of work tasks;
  • Can respond to emergencies when called to do so;
  • Can work effectively with minimal supervision;
  • Can be contacted by phone during assigned work hours.


Safety and Risk Management will consider all requests for AWS that do not compromise the department’s objectives and the needs of our customers. However, not every job will qualify for an AWS and approval for any AWS will be at the sole discretion of the supervisor and the University and may be revoked at the direction of a supervisor at any time.

 Types of Alternative Work Schedules

AWS available to SRM employees include but are not limited to the following:

1. Compressed Full-time (40 hours in less than 5 days)

Compressed Full-time refers to working a 40-hour week within a shorter number of days.

Anyone requesting to work compressed time should understand that employees are expected to work 40 hours per week. Employees are expected to put in a full week of work and complete all work as assigned within the shortened work structure.

A schedule for compressed full-time should be discussed and approved by the supervisor, and will be re-evaluated based on employee productivity and customer satisfaction. Core business hours for SRM should be considered as well as core hours of VCU customers supported by the employee and management’s expectations.

2. Telecommuting(i.e.., work at home)

Telecommuting is a tool allowing for flexibility in work location. A telecommuter’s performance is measured by accomplishments, not work location. It does not change the basic terms and conditions of employment with VCU.  Due to the nature of job responsibilities, not every position is eligible for telecommuting.

Telecommuters are expected to adhere to University rules, regulations, policies, and procedures regarding the security and confidentiality of data and information. Employees must use network access procedures established by the University. All telecommuter staff will utilize VPN access if required to complete work tasks, two-factor security, and install virus-protection software on any personal computer systems that will be used for official VCU business.

The employee will be responsible for maintaining all electronic equipment necessary to accomplish their work tasks, and ensuring that their home work environment is free of distractions that will limit them from completing work assignments in a timely manner.

The telecommuting employee is expected to maintain a visible presence within their office among coworkers, and telecommuting will be limited to not more than six days in a given month, unless other arrangements are made with the supervisor. Employees are encouraged to avoid scheduling telecommuting days on Mondays and Fridays. All telecommuting employees will be expected to attend department events or meetings when scheduled unless excused by the supervisor.

3. Flexible Schedules(i.e., any work hours other than 7:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday)

As the name implies, flexible schedules are flexible. The employee and supervisor will work out an acceptable schedule. The employee is responsible for adhering to the agreed schedule.

Flexible schedules all have two things in common: core hours, during which the employee must be at work; and flexible time bands which are the times you can vary arrival and departure times from work. For example, rather than all employees working 7:30 to 4:30, some might work 7:00 am to 4:00 pm, and others 9:00 am to 6:00 pm. It will be the supervisor’s responsibility to ensure that all direct report schedules will include sufficient on campus presence for assigned projects.

Professional Development

SRM employees are encouraged to participate in professional development including taking advantage of VCU’s Tuition Waiver Program. A flexible work schedule allows employees to take part in VCU offered courses during the day when course schedules do not provide much flexibility for an employee to participate.

Employee Wellness

Studies have shown that a healthy workforce is a productive workforce. All SRM employees are encouraged to get a minimum of 30 minutes of exercise per day. Any employee who has a campus gym membership or enjoys exercising outdoors (walking, jogging, etc.) can participate in an exercise regimen of their choice in lieu of time off for meals.

Professional development and employee wellness programs are a privilege and should not be abused. Employees who are taking day classes should consider the amount of time used for exercise during the work week. Appropriate course registrations must be on file with the department.

VCU Human Resources may audit flexible work arrangements for compliance to all University and Human Resource Management policies as well as state and federal laws. All flexible work arrangements must be re-evaluated by the supervisor after three (3) months and revised if necessary.  All agreements will be renewed annually.

Starting the AWS Process

Managers and supervisors should review the Department of Human Resource Management’s Teleworking: Guidance and Assistance for Supervisors and Managers to get best practice tips on managing a successful telework program within their organization.  Here you will find information on quantifying expectations, offering frequent and ongoing feedback, establishing reporting systems, and managing telework employees by results.

Employees must review the VCU Human Resource guidelines for Alternate Work Arrangements before completing a VCU Flexible Agreement or Telework Agreement.  Each form will require the employee to agree to specific terms and conditions including a work schedule, a work plan, a communication plan, work review periods, and other contingencies to validate the agreement.

The VCU Flexible Agreement form must be used to request all AWS. Upon completion, it must be signed by your supervisor and your department head with the final review by a VCU Human Resources. The original signed document must be filed in the Human Resources. The employee and supervisor must keep a copy. A new signed Flexible Agreement must be submitted to Human Resources and Payroll annually upon review by the supervisor.

The VCU Telework Agreement form must be used to request employee telecommuting privileges. All telecommuting employees must review VCU policies pertinent to telecommuting, including those related to the security of VCU data, systems, and equipment. Once the supervisor reviews and approves the agreement, an initial 90-day review date will be documented on the employee’s telework agreement for follow-up. The telework agreement is sent to Human Resources for final review and approval. After all signatures are obtained, the Telecommuting Agreement is placed into the employee’s official personnel files. The supervisor or employee can terminate at Telework Agreement at any time..

It is also recognized that circumstances arise in which a temporary alternative work arrangement may be appropriate to accommodate short-term assignments or other circumstances. These informal situations are determined on an as-needed basis between the employee and the supervisor, and are not subject to the formal process for extended arrangements.


SRM managerial staff reserve the right to modify this procedure in whole or in part, at any time, to ensure compliance with University policy.


Cellphones, after-hours and on-call expectations:

Designated SRM staff are eligible to receive a wireless communication allowance as taxable income.  The wireless communications policy assumes that the device will be used for both business and personal use and it is, therefore, appropriate for the university and employee to share the overall costs. The amount of the allowance is not intended to cover the full cost of the employee’s monthly service plan.   This is intended to enable the use of personal cellphones for offsite work, after-hours contact and on-call duties.  The standard cell phone allowance in SRM is based on duties, responsibilities and experience and will be determined by directors and the AVP per the wireless communications policy.

Designated positions in SRM are required to maintain a means of after-hours access at all times, in addition during assigned and paid-on-call periods staff must be able to respond via phone/text or on campus within a reasonable time (i.e. 15 minutes via phone/text, on campus within two hours).

Professional Appearance

Employees of the Safety and Risk Management Department (SRM) are expected to present a neat and appropriate professional appearance when working in the office or when engaging with University faculty, staff, students and general public.

Casual Friday – Denim jeans may be worn on Fridays throughout the year. However, employees should be mindful of their work environment/schedule and should dress appropriately for meetings or other business outside of the office.

At the discretion of their supervisor, any employee whose dress may represent a safety hazard will be asked to return home on their own time to obtain correct attire.

Heavy work clothes may be worn when working in waste storage areas, the 13th Street Waste Facilities, the Sanger loading dock, Duval Waste Facility or while performing other activities which are physical and likely to result in soiling or damage to the employee’s clothing.

Staff are entitled to receive specific clothing paid for by SRM as follows:

  • Shirts – Each classified or university non-exempt and exempt employee who conducts inspections is entitled to receive five SRM logo embroidered shirts upon employment. Shirts will be replaced on an as needed basis. Replacement requests should be forwarded to the head of each department through the employee’s supervisor. Other exempt employees may purchase SRM shirts as needed.
  • Steel Toed Shoes – Employees requiring steel toed shoes as identified by Departmental Job Safety Assessments (JSA) will only receive one pair per year or as needed. There is a $150 cap on all shoes purchased from the current vendor (Red Wing Shoes). If an employee chooses to purchase the shoes and be reimbursed by the department, reimbursements are handled per the current procurement and policy guidelines.
  • Lab coats are purchased as needed. Each employee should have at least one lab coat with approved SRM logo to be used during training and lab surveys. If your survey lab coat should become stained or unpresentable, replacement requests should be forwarded to the head of each department through the employee’s supervisor. Lab coats used for waste and dirty work will be laundered in the Environmental Health and Safety (EHS) laundry facilities located in the Duval Street Facility.
  • Caps may be worn but must meet the approved department logo standards for Safety and Risk Management.
  • Outer wear (vests, jackets, wind breakers, etc) may be purchased on an as needed basis.

Personal protective clothing and equipment shall be worn as identified in the Departmental JSA. Specific requirements are summarized as follows:

  • Protective clothes such as lab coats or coveralls shall be worn when working with radioactive and chemical waste.
  • Lab coats shall be worn when performing lab surveys or working with radioactive materials.
  • Sandals/open-toed shoes shall not be worn when working with radioactive or hazardous material.
  • Safety shoes must be worn when on radioactive waste rotation or when moving drums or working with other heavy equipment or at any time there is a potential for foot injury.
  • Other personal protective equipment shall be worn as identified in the Departmental JSA.

Though office descriptors such as “Fire Safety” or “Biosafety”, will be allowed on a case by case basis, the approved departmental logos and colors will be used.


Congrats to the Newest CIH!!!

Please join me in congratulating Valerie Pegues on recently passing her exam by the American Board of Industrial Hygiene. As a Certified Industrial Hygienist, Valerie has reached a career milestone that is by all accounts one of the hardest and most involved in our career field. I’m immensely proud of this great accomplishment on her part, all while completing a hectic work schedule, and I’m happy that we work at an institution that values professional education and certification.

Again, congrats Val and I hope we get to toast your success soon!



Welcome Kyle Stone

Please join me in welcoming Kyle Stone as our new occupational safety specialist.

After an interesting series of academic adventures pursuing a degree in Biology, Kyle eventually settled on occupational safety as a potential career field. He graduated from Old Dominion University with a bachelors of Environmental Health and a minor in Occupational safety. During his junior year at ODU, Kyle received a stipend from NEHA to complete a 400 hour internship with the Peninsula Health District, which subsequently hired him after he graduated. He comes to VCU from that position.

Like others of our colleagues, Kyle is a fan of fishing and I’m sure Mike Elliott will have long discussions on the topic with him.


Employee Engagement Survey

The results are out for the employee engagement survey and I’m happy to find that we’re all more engaged … or at least the 29 of us that responded to the survey are.

Please see the results below:

As a metric we went up in all but three areas. Those that I’m happiest with are that recognition and development improved dramatically. You deserve the recognition you get for the work that you do.

If I haven’t before, I want to reiterate that you all do excellent work; the insurance group recovers hundreds of thousands of dollars for the University; Biosafety supports $185 million in research; Occupational Safety drastically reduced FMD injury rates; Radiation Safety manages one of the few broad scope licenses in the nation; Fire Safety partnered with the Richmond Fire Department to reduce fire incidents through education; Laboratory Safety has reduced major laboratory violations through inspection and education; in one year Valerie at Industrial Hygiene has managed to dramatically reduce faculty, staff and student exposures to hazardous chemicals; and despite my best efforts, the Business Support group has managed to keep our budget in the black.

I hope that we can continue to work together to improve how we all feel about our jobs here at VCU. For instance, collectively we’re unsure what’s expected, we don’t have the materials and equipment that we need, and we don’t have the opportunity to do our best work. I’m not sure what we can do to correct this perception, but if I can do something, please let me know.

VCU Staff Senate Awards for Excellence is OPEN!

The Staff Senate is launching the first Excellence Awards for Staff only. It has been a Staff Senate labor of love for many years, and is finally coming to fruition thanks to the courageous leadership, hard work and vision of Ken Hudgins and the Staff Senate Awards and Recognition Committee.

Please go to the following:

Award nominations will be accepted until August 31st. 
Good luck!!!

Work Space Survey

As many of you may have heard, there are several office moves that are occurring over the next two years that will affect Safety and Risk Management staff. The SRM staff housed in the 700 West Grace building will be moving in 12-18 months due to proposed new construction on that site. Additionally, as the new Allied Health Professions building opens, space within the MCV campus will open for possible use by SRM.

With those considerations in mind, I would like to review what type of office space, environment and work rules would be best for our operations and work environment. We have the opportunity in the near future to design our own work space, so I want to make sure that I have your feedback on what you want in a work space and what you need to effectively do your job.

To that end, we have developed the following survey gain insight on what the majority of staff value in a work space: Office and Work Space Survey

Please take the time over the next few days to take the survey. I’d like to get this completed by the end of next week, so that I might share the results with you after we return from the July 4th holiday.

Welcome Jacob Hernadez!

Please join me in welcoming our newest Fire Safety Officer, Jacob Hernandez. Jacob works on the MCV campus.

For the past three years Jacob has worked as a VCU Health Contractor with Communication Specialists Incorporated (CSI.)  He is a professional technician in fire alarm testing and installation.  Also he is proficient in other system installations including nurse call, ASCOM, overhead paging systems, and more. Before becoming involved with life safety systems, Jacob was a in the commercial security profession.

Jacob plans to attend VCU as a student once he settles in with his new position. VCU Fire Safety has worked with Jacob over the past three years and welcome him aboard.

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