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.

VCU Fire Prevention Through Education


I would like to draw your attention to – and congratulate – the entire team at the VCU Fire Safety Office for working with the Richmond Fire Department to develop a program called “Fire Prevention Through Education”.

Under the leadership of Bill Willis, Assistant Director for Fire Safety, the whole team worked with the Richmond Fire Department to build a “Burn House” to highlight the need for sprinkler systems. The fire safety team worked with the Richmond Fire Department to build the burn room and prepare for the public news event.

In what I believe to be a first for our department, Bill was interviewed by news 12 and News 8:

News 12: “Hard to put a price on your life”: Firefighters show off effectiveness of sprinklers

News 8: Richmond Fire hopes locals make ‘safe’ investment with sprinkler systems

Please join me in congratulating the whole team: Bill, Derek, Michael, Matt, Kurt, Tyler, and William. I can’t say enough how much we appreciate your efforts.

As a final comment, I find Jessica’s choice of footwear for the event questionable from a safety perspective…


Michael and the Safety Training Consortium

I would like to bring your attention to an article in VCU News today:

Congratulations to Michael for his election to the board of the Safety Training Consortium. With this VCU joins other nationally ranked universities in promoting safety nationally. Again these include the California State University, Northwestern, Princeton, Central Michigan, Emory, University of Pittsburgh, Wellesley College and Washington University in St Louis.

Well done Michael!

Welcome Michael Butts

I would like to welcome Michael Butts back to VCU after a two year hiatus. Michael accepted the position of Fire Safety Supervisor for the Monroe Park Campus and started last week.

Michael has six years of experience in Fire Safety, beginning as a volunteer firefighter in Chesterfield County, as a Fire Safety Technician on the MCV Campus and most recently as the Fire Protection Specialist for the VCU Health System. Michael is Pro Board certified through the Virginia Department of Fire Programs in: Fire Fighter I, Fire Fighter II and Hazardous Materials Operations Level. Additionally, he is certified through the State Board of Housing and Community Development as a Fire Prevention Inspector. Michael is currently pursuing his Bachelor’s degree in Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness at VCU.

Please join me in welcoming Michael back to VCU in this more expanded role.

Spot Awards

I would like to congratulate Barbara Back, Mathew Harris and Danny Munoz for their recent Spot Awards. Barbara received her award for her outstanding support of VCU Health and her willingness to go above and beyond what’s required to support the Hospital. Matt received his award for coming in over the weekend to assist with two Dominion Energy projects in order to assure that there was limited disruption to the VCU community. Danny received his award for exceptional customer service during a spill clean-up at VCU Health.

As you’re aware, Spot awards are given in recognition of excellent work on a project, task or activity including outstanding support of day-to-day assigned business activities. They are intended to acknowledge and demonstrate immediate and spontaneous appreciation for the contributions of individuals. Our focus within the Division of Administration is clearly on customer service and examples of other criteria include, but are not limited to:

  • Outstanding handling of an emergent customer service issue;
  • Exceptional response to an emergency or urgent situation;
  • Identifying an immediate process/system error or safety hazard;
  • Resolving a pay issue or other immediate need quickly;
  • Project completion of a regularly assigned project before the deadline or under budget;
  • Repeated recognition by customers for excellent service; and
  • Proposal of a new or modified work practice, training or educational achievements, etc.
  • Spot Awards can be given in amounts up to $500 (classified and wage) and/or four hours of recognition leave (classified only) for each occurrence.

Because Spot Awards are intended as more immediate forms of recognition, they can be processed each pay period, following the same deadlines as used for PAFs (see the payroll schedule for more information). They require only supervisor and Dean/Department Head approval; HR approval is not required.

I would encourage all supervisors to use this opportunity to reward SRM staff that have gone above and beyond in support of the research community, the Hospital, or the university as a whole.

Please congratulate Barbara, Matt and Danny when you see them.

Presidential Metrics

I wanted to take a moment to to let you know that at least some part of what we do is a priority of Dr. Rao’s and is being tracked as one of Meredith Weiss’ metrics of performance. In much the same way that all of us have cascading goals, Meredith meets quarterly with the President and the status of each of her performance metrics is discussed. The inclusion of BioRaft implementation as one of her performance metrics was her idea and for the first time in my career, something I’m responsible for – other than something blowing up or catching on fire – has Presidential visibility. Please see below for the exact language:


Key Presidential Priority? Priority and Goal THRESHOLD

Minimum Expectation


Meets Expectation


Exceeds Expectation



Accessible and Real-World Learning in an Urban Research University. Efforts to support and promote the transformation of the educational learning experience at VCU (through academics, technology, and/or human resource initiatives)



25% implementation of BioRaft Management Software for research laboratories that will allow inventory control; inspection finding management; and compliance controls accessible by researchers across the enterprise.



50% implementation of BioRaft Management Software for research laboratories that will allow inventory control; inspection finding management; and compliance controls accessible by researchers across the enterprise.



80% implementation of BioRaft Management Software for research laboratories that will allow inventory control; inspection finding management; and compliance controls accessible by researchers across the enterprise.


Why is this important? Because when researchers and others ask why they have to do this, we should start with the fact that it’s a valuable tool that will ultimately make their management of the laboratory easier. However, for the truly recalcitrant, perhaps letting them know that this is a Presidential priority may be helpful. The unintended consequence though is that we have to perform. We have to do everything in our power to make sure that what we said we’re going to do actually gets done.

You have the more difficult task of dealing with the researchers and others of the University community on a daily basis. I understand that I’m pretty far removed from that reality .. I haven’t done a laboratory or facility inspection in 15 years. You’re the experts on how to implement the President’s goal and I’m sorry you’re the ones tasked with implementing something that is such a drastic cultural change for our community. However, I hope you understand that this is ultimately a good process that will improve our support of VCU. We have to be champions of this process.


EHS Update January 2018


I want to take some time at the start of the new year to send out an update and the blog is a great way to share recent progress from the EHS team.  The format allows you to interact and comment directly, so please feel free to share your feedback.


Before I get started, I hope everyone had a good break and found some time to slow down and reflect.  I am struck by the dedication, kindness and good humor throughout Safety and Risk Management.  In my short time here I have been welcomed into your family and I really appreciate it.  I have included some highlights of the work we do to support research, education and clinical care.  SRM supports VCU in many different ways so here is a dive in the EHS pool.


Chemical Inventory

95% Response rate from researchers Over 380 rooms with inventory Over 10,000 chemicals in our library


The Laboratory Safety team (Larry, Kabrina, Bill, Greg and Danny) have been leading the collection of chemical inventory information and uploading it to the BioRAFT database.  This has been a team effort with staff across EHS, academic deans and chairs supporting the effort – including the Vice President of Research and Innovation chipping in.  Thank you Dr. Macrina and all the EHS staff who pitched in!  Congratulations are in order as we have reached over 95% response rate across campus.  We are completing final data entry and are working with the Richmond Fire Department to give them access to the data.  The database has information on chemicals in more than 380 rooms across campus and over 10,000 chemicals in the system at this time.


BioRAFT and Lab Safety Assessments 

337 VCU Principle Investigators

895 researchers and students to date

43 Buildings


BioRAFT is a EHS compliance software system with features that are customized to support research.  VCU purchased the system in 2017 and implementation is ongoing with important milestones upcoming.  We have 337 principle investigators/labs registered in the system and we are building the lab member database with 895 researchers total in the system (and counting!).  Larry Mendoza has been spearheading BioRAFT implementation and is working with customers from VCU and VCU Health.  Clinical Pathology will begin using BioRAFT for chemical inventory, equipment and safety assessments in the new year. 


The biosafety and lab safety teams are using the software for laboratory safety assessments now.  Data from the system will inform areas for improved training and focus.  We have performed over 80 lab assessments in BioRAFT since September and the Radiation Safety team will begin using the software in January for their first quarter assessments.  The average lab safety assessment results in 2.4 findings.  A summary of the most frequent lab safety findings is below:


High Frequency Assessment Findings:  BIoRAFT data through Dec. 2017

Finding Severity Type Occurrences # of Labs
Chemical storage compatibility issues – Intermediate hazard +2 Chemical 19 17
Chemical storage compatibility issues – Minor hazard +1 Chemical 12 12
Emergency contact information needed +1 General 12 10
Chemical waste satellite accumulation areas maintained improperly +2 Chemical 11 10
No Food/Drink postings required +1 General 11 10
Chemical fume hood – Low Flow warning (below 80 fpm at sash face velocity) or High Flow warning (above 120 fpm at sash face velocity) +3 Chemical 10 9
Chemical Hygiene Plan missing, inaccessible or expired +1 Chemical 10 10
Chemical labeling inadequate or missing +1 Chemical 10 8
Eye wash/safety shower concerns identified – minor +1 General 9 8
Freezers have not been defrosted regularly (more than 1 inch of ice build up) +1 General 8 8




The Biosafety team (Mike, Vickie and Virginia) continue their close interaction with the Office of Research and Innovation through the Institutional Biosafety Committee (IBC), the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC) and the Institutional Review Entity (for potential “dual use research of concern” or DURC technologies).  We are also beginning to work more closely with the Institutional Review Board (IRB) that serves as VCU’s independent ethics review entity for all research, particularly research involving human participants.  The IRB oversees all clinical trials (and much more).  That’s a lot of acronyms!  It’s also a lot of work for the biosafety team, supporting over $200 million dollars in funded research through review, approval and monitoring of research protocols.


Biosafety Program Snapshot:  June – August 2017

 IACUC protocol reviews  IBC MUA approvals/revisions  Bio. Material Transfer Reviews
192 43 51


In September, Mike Elliott and the biosafety team hosted the annual emergency response drill for the biosafety level 3 (BSL3) lab in conjunction with the research community, Fire Safety, Occupational Safety, VCU Police and Richmond Fire.  A big thanks should go to everyone in SRM who participated and to Dr. Jason Carlyon the principle investigator of the lab.  Below are a few action shots of the team:


 Radiation Safety


The radiation safety team (Mary Beth, Holly, Beth, Jason, Jon and Sara) has been busy supporting the health system and VCU research.  The group is responsible for all regulatory relations, dosimetry, area monitoring, radiological controls, training and sealed source/waste management.   The team will begin using BioRAFT in January for first quarter safety assessments and we will be updating the laser safety program with a third party program audit in the new year.   Here are a few highlights from the radiation safety team:

  • Worked with Radiation Oncology to ensure that installation of the high dose-rate remote afterloader (HDR) at the Hanover Medical Park meets the intent of all regulations and license conditions.
  • Met with new chair of Nuclear Medicine division and the chief technologist to discuss the current protocol for lymphoscintigraphy Tc-99m injections in the operating suite to detect sentinel nodes during surgical procedures for primary carcinomas (breast cancer, melanoma, etc.). The standard operating procedures will be updated by Nuclear Medicine to include training on making proper requests for the service, surgeon hands-on training, and waste disposal.
  • Held the quarterly Radiation Safety Committee meeting on 12/14/17.
  • Performed decommissioning survey of vacated labs in the Gateway Basement previously occupied by the Center for Molecular Imaging.
  • Performed required leak testing of all VCU and VCU Health alpha, beta, and gamma sealed sources.
  • Conducted laser safety analysis with Larry Mendoza in Dr. Golshahi’s lab in Biotech I. Recommendations were made regarding appropriate curtains for shielding and eye protection.  Also reviewed laser safety analysis for Dr. Kinsey in School of Engineering West Hall with Larry.  Currently reviewing the laser safety plan and updates will be included.


Industrial Hygiene Program


Valerie Pegues has been busy building the industrial hygiene program to support VCU Health and the academic campus.  The respiratory protection program is a priority and we have new guidelines and procedures in place.  The program includes risk assessments, training, equipment selection, medical clearance and fit testing.  Many of you may have been involved with this program when we host our fit testing blitz events for students in the School of Allied Health.  We are applying more science to the program with the use of quantitative fit testing equipment and a robust medical clearance program.


Exposure assessment focuses on the identification and measurement of workplace hazards.  It is an essential “front end” to any health and safety program.  Information and data on potential exposures can guide the efficient application of resources.  VCU has robust anesthetic gas monitoring programs for both VCU Health and in support grant funded animal research.      We have performed risk assessments in facilities, in research labs, animal research and at VCU Health.  Valerie’s work was able to identify and control a potential anesthetic gas exposure in a research lab in Kontos.  In addition, we have performed noise exposure analysis in facilities and the Division of Animal Research work locations and provided exposure control measures.



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