Quality and Productivity Database

Descriptive Title of Proposal: Transformation of Environmental Health & Safety Management Systems
Year Submitted 2019
Person(s) Responsible for the Idea
Name / Nom Title / Titre
Jerry Aguinagaa Executive Director, EHS
Pamela Gallant Biological Safety Manager
Stephen Beaton Chemical Safety Manager
Stephen Ellis Fire & Life Safety Manager
Jill Robertson Radiation Safety Manager
Sarah Langille EHS Manager
Lori Lamrock EHS and Employee Development Coordinator
Craig Arthur Faculty Engineer, EHS Coordinator
Name of Institution Dalhousie University
Office Address 1435 Seymour Street
Environmental Health & Safety Office, Dalhousie University, PO Box 15000
Halifax, Nova Scotia B3H 4R2
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Telephone: 902-494-1241
Email Address: Email hidden; Javascript is required.
Name (Senior Administrative Office of the Institution) Ian Nason
Title (Senior Administrative Office of the Institution) Vice-President, Finance and Administration
Office Address 6299 South Street
Henry Hicks Academic Administration Building, Dalhousie University; PO Box 15000
Halifax, Nova Scotia B3H 4R2
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Telephone: 902-494-1724
Email Address: Email hidden; Javascript is required.

The Dalhousie University Environmental Health & Safety (EHS) Office has been strategically restructured aligning program managers with key University risks including; biological, chemical, radiation, fire, and farm safety. These program managers provide expert guidance and oversight to the university and work as a team to accomplish aggressive goals utilizing collaborations with Faculty, Staff and students.

Programs are based on a common EHS Management system approach with the following key considerations:

  • Risk identification
  • Policy and procedures
  • Training and awareness
  • Selfinspections and audits
  • Nonconformance process
  • Incident management
  • Annual planning

The goal is to strategically align and provide common platforms for efficient EHS Management.

As a result, the team was able to successfully complete a number of large scale University-wide projects to improve EHS risk management including;

  1. Web-based permit and records management system
  2. Legacy chemical waste disposal program
  3. Medical surveillance program
  4. Laboratory safety infrastructure program
  5. Computer based training program
  6. Automated External Defibrillator (AED) program
  7. Self-inspection and audit program
  8. Cross departmental appointments
  9. Safety in Engineering curriculum

These projects were not possible for the small EHS team to achieve without an innovative and collaborative approach which relied heavily on partnerships with numerous university departments, faculty members, students, university committees, and external institutions.

These strong and consistent EHS Management systems minimized effort, lowered administrative burden, and produced operational efficiency, while at the same time minimized and eliminated risk. Efficient systems successfully engaged the University community to actively participate in risk management. As an example, the Dalhousie research community is now able to manage their own hazard information, access self-service online training, complete self-directed inspections, and enroll and participate in the medical surveillance program.

The overall result is a palpable positive shift in safety culture which is observable across the University Teaching and Research communities as well as the Facilities and Administrative operations. The long-term goal is to leverage this increased engagement and continue to build on it, tackling even more aggressive projects and continuing to drive an even more positive safety culture across the university.

Criteria Please submit one paragraph describing how the proposal fulfills each of the evaluation criteria.

Transforming EHS risk management systems through the use of collaborative approaches can easily be implemented by any institution. Partnering with other university units leverages the diverse expertise that already exists within the institution. Capitalizing on existing relationships and fostering new connections can be used as the foundation to initiate collaborations. Cultivating these relationships results in buy-in from the university community to create an enhanced positive safety culture, which in turn increases commitment from senior management to allocate funding in support of EHS initiatives. Business models used by Dalhousie, where costs associated with projects are shared across multiple units, could easily be mirrored at other institutions. Additionally, structuring diverse EHS management systems to utilize a common approach is a strategy that can easily be applied at any institution. This can be accomplished by creating a team of program managers that can work together to align underlying key components of each EHS program.  The benefits of the enhanced EHS management systems implemented at Dalhousie are also directly transferrable to other institutions, as staff and students trained at Dalhousie carry their knowledge and safe work practices with them as they continue their careers at other institutions. In the end it has been seen as very positive to resolve the Universities’ problems using the University resources and this philosophy is completely transferrable.

Quality Impact

The aim of taking a collaborative approach to EHS risk management was to enable the small EHS team to tackle ambitious projects that required expertise or other resources not available within the EHS Office. The ultimate goal was to create a safer working, teaching, and learning environment for the university community. As a result, the EHS office has been able to expand its efforts to create programs and services that were otherwise not possible. Structuring diverse EHS programs on a foundation of shared key components has created synergy and resulted in robust processes. The success of this approach is demonstrated in numerous university-wide programs, each of which has led to improved safety of faculty, staff, students, and visitors. These resulting programs reduce risks at the university and provide protective measures against potential hazards.  Other results include improved training delivery, and enhanced record keeping and data management. Best practices in safety have been implemented at the university that meet or exceed regulatory requirements. Additionally, the relationships developed and fostered during collaborations have helped to drive a positive shift in safety culture across the university. The high visibility of the resulting projects has inspired the university community to play an active role in improving safety at Dalhousie. In response to these positive changes, senior management at the university has continued to invest resources in support of on-going and future EHS initiatives. Positive outcomes are demonstrated by outstanding positive feedback and increased participation from the university community. Visible results in improved safety habits and greater regulatory compliance are being observed by EHS staff during audits.

Productivity Impact

The collaborative approach to EHS risk management produces productivity gains by engaging multiple units, increasing the number of people available to work on EHS issues and the number of units that are able to contribute to projects. Financial cost for staffing, equipment, and operations associated with these projects is shared by the participating units. This makes it possible to implement projects that would be too large or costly for any one individual unit to accomplish. The collaborations between units has increased communication and sharing of information, which has reduced duplication of effort and has streamlined initiatives across the university. Not only does this allow more programs and services to be offered, but it also increases the level of participation as operating units are generally more motivated to participate when the project or initiative is co sponsored with them. The implementation of robust EHS and self serve systems has reduced administrative burden in the EHS office and improved the ability to forecast and budget future operations.  These efficiencies have been welcomed by our research community. The outcome of the shift has generated positive productivity increases both for the EHS office as well has reduced the administrative burden for the research community.  As a practical example a researcher previously may have had to submit as many as 4 independent inspection reports, on paper, to the EHS office and now one inspection can be completed and submitted on a smart phone in a fraction of the time.  Self-directed safety training is also a great example of productivity improvements where in the past supervisors would have to schedule WHMIS training and have their staff attend in a classroom environment, this now can be accomplished completely online with minimum administrative burden.    


Using partnerships to tackle ambitious EHS risk management initiatives is an innovative solution to approach common challenge at other academic institutions. The scope and scale of the projects are such that our small EHS team was only able to achieve success by accessing expertise, funding, and personnel commitment of other university units and external partners. The resulting programs have transformed EHS service delivery across the university. Accessibility to EHS resources has been modernized, with many services readily available through convenient online formats. The partnerships built across the university have increased awareness, generated discussion, and created buy-in to EHS risk management. Safety is being built into student curriculum, providing students with world-class best practices that they will take with them as they enter the workforce and throughout their careers. Providing consistent, high-quality training to Dalhousie faculty and staff allows them an active role in creating a safe working and teaching environment and to be a positive model of behaviours for students. Additionally, enhancing commonalities between the key components of very diverse EHS programs allows for improved delivery of services to the university community, with the EHS team working in a cohesive manner rather than existing in silos.

Supporting Documents