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Environmental Safety
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Safety Minutes

Accident Prevention | Office Safety | Winter Preparation | Holiday Safety | Hot Weather
Slips and Falls | Fire Safety | Summer Safety | Severe Weather Planning

Accident Prevention

The Environmental Safety Department shares brief safety and risk management principles, practices and ideas identified as a "Safety Minute" for your consideration and application across the campus. The first Safety Minute relates to accident prevention.

According to the National Safety Council, these are some of the most common human factors that contribute to accidents:

  • Negligence - Failure to observe safety rules or instructions or to maintain equipment.
  • Anger/Temper - Causes one to become irrational and to disregard common sense.
  • Hasty Decisions - Acting before thinking can lead people to take hazardous shortcuts.
  • Indifference - Lack of attention to the task; not alert; daydreaming.
  • Distractions - Interruptions by others (perhaps caused by family troubles, bad news, horseplay) while someone performs normal job duties or non-routine hazardous tasks.
  • Curiosity - Workers do something unexpected just to see what happens.
  • Inadequate Instruction - Results in an untrained or improperly trained worker.
  • Poor Work Habits - Cluttered work place, floor, loose clothing, wearing jewelry.

Supervisors, please print this information and distribute to those without access.


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Office Safety

The office can be as dangerous as any other work environment. The potential exists for cuts, burns, slips, trips and falls, crushing injuries, repetitive motion syndrome, eyestrain and other injuries. The following safety practices apply to any office setting:

  1. Furniture with sharp corners, projecting edges or wobbly legs should be reported to Physical Plant for modification, repair or replacement.
  2. Chairs should be used properly and well maintained to prevent tipping.

  3. Chairs, desks, tables or other furniture should not be used in lieu of a ladder.

  4. File, desk and table drawers should be closed when not in use to avoid tripping or striking injuries.

  5. Only one file drawer should be opened at a time and never remain open while unattended.

  6. Ideally, the top file cabinet drawer should be less filled than other drawers.

  7. Close file drawers slowly to avoid pinching fingers.

  8. Blades of paper cutters should be closed when not in use.

  9. Hands should be kept clear of printer carriages, when in use.

  10. Paper cuts can be minimized by use of rubber finger guards and sponges for moistening.

  11. Scissors, paperclips, thumbtacks, razorblades, etc. should be stored and used cautiously.

  12. Floors and walkway surfaces must be kept clean, dry and unobstructed.

  13. Stored or stacked objects must not be placed where they are hard to reach or where they might fall.

  14. Office "avalanches" can result from faulty stacking of heavy boxes, papers, books and other office materials above your head on the top shelf.

  15. Hallways, stairs and lobbies shall not be used for storage of any kind.

  16. Replace all frayed wiring, improper grounding and malfunctioning electrical equipment
  17. Remain alert for telephone, extension and electrical cords, loose carpeting, and objects that might cause a trip and fall.

For a safe work place, report, repair and replace all potential hazards.

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Winter Preparation

The following is a checklist for your automobile to prepare for motoring safety in the winter season. Please post for those without access to a computer.

  1. Check battery - make sure connections are tight and corrosion-free; have a mechanic perform a load test on the battery. Mechanics generally recommend replacing a battery with less than a year remaining on the warranty.
  2. Check fluids: check coolant level and if the mixture of water/antifreeze is correct (usually 50/50); windshield wiper fluid (winter type); check brake fluid; and check clutch or transmission fluid.
  3. Check filters: check oil and filter for replacement; check air filter for replacement; check service records to see if other filter replacements are due.
  4. Check belts and hoses: push and pull on belts and squeeze hoses (a rule of thumb is belts that give more than one inch of movement with push and pull might need adjustment); hoses should return to original shape and not be extremely soft; replace cracked or fraying belts or weak hoses.
  5. Check tires: inspect tread depth - use the penny test (insert a penny into the tread groove and if you can see the top of Lincoln's head, the tire needs to be replaced); monitor tire pressure twice per month during the winter. A tire inflated to 32 psi on a 70 degree day will register as (under-inflated) 26 psi in freezing weather.
  6. Check wiper blades: inspect for cracks and wear.
  7. Check all light bulbs: inspect bulb operation including brake lights and high beams; also test emergency flashers.
  8. Lubricate all door and trunk locks with WD-40 or graphite to keep them from freezing; never use hot water to thaw locks or to de-ice windshields. If you are alerted to an ice storm or snow, try covering your windshield with an old doormat or carpet sample - I learned this trick from a volunteer firefighter.
  9. Check repair records to see if general tune-up is due - spark plugs, ignition coils, fuel injection, emission controls, brakes, etc.
  10. Prepare an EMERGENCY KIT - flashlight, flares, first-aid blanket, warm clothes, gloves, hat, paper towels, snow shovel, snow brush, ice scraper, washer fluid, packaged food, and water. Kitty litter can be poured under tires to improve traction if the vehicle gets stuck in the snow. Put all these in an inexpensive nylon duffle bag and keep it in your trunk. The bag can be easily moved around, when necessary.


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Holiday Safety

Here are some quick safety tips that you may benefit from:

Question: Cold and flu season is here. What can you do to keep healthy?

Answer: A recent study estimated the economic cost of lost productivity due to the common cold at nearly $25 billion. To help keep workers healthy and on the job, try a back-to-basics approach. Emphasize proper handwashing techniques, getting enough rest and practicing "respiratory etiquette." Encourage workers who are ill to stay home to protect others. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offers a fact sheet on preventing the transmission of colds and flu on the job.

CELL PHONES SPEED NEEDED HELP: "ICE" or "In Case of Emergency"

Rescue personnel are asking people to program emergency contacts into their cell phones' address books as a way to easily reach a family member or emergency contact should an illness or accident render one unconscious. It's a good idea not only for you, but to pass along to all employees as well as their family members.

Here's how it works: Individuals program a new contact into their cell phone address book with the letters ICE followed by the name and phone number of their emergency contacts. These individuals should agree to be the ICE contact and they should be supplied with the individual's family contacts, primary physician, work contact and also medical history, which should list allergies, current medication and previous medical procedures.

For more information, visit

Holiday safety tips from Coastal Training: for the HTML version.


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OSHA Tips to Protect Workers in Hot Summer Weather

Simple precautions, such as those listed on OSHAs Heat Stress Card, can prevent many heat-related deaths and injuries. Please share this information with those who work outdoors and their supervisors.

  • Encourage workers to drink plenty of water about 1 cup of cool water every 15 to 20 minutes, even if they are not thirsty and to avoid alcohol, coffee, tea, and caffeinated soft drinks that dehydrate the body.

  • Help workers adjust to the heat by assigning a lighter workload and longer rest periods for the first 5 to 7 days of intense heat. This process needs to start all over again when a worker returns from vacation or absence from the job.

  • Encourage workers to wear lightweight, light-colored, loose-fitting clothing. Workers should change their clothes if they get completely saturated with perspiration.

  • Use general ventilation and spot cooling at points of high heat production. Good airflow increases evaporation and cooling of the skin.

  • Train first aid workers to recognize and treat the signs of heat stress and be sure all workers know who has been trained to provide aid. Also train supervisors to detect early signs of heat-related illness and permit workers to take a break when they become extremely uncomfortable.

  • Consider a workers physical condition when determining fitness to work in hot environments. Obesity, lack of conditioning, pregnancy, and inadequate rest can increase susceptibility to heat stress.

  • Shorter, more frequent work-rest cycles are best. Schedule heavy work for cooler times of the day and use appropriate protective clothing. Monitor temperatures, humidity, and workers responses to heat at least hourly.

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Slips and Falls

Slips and falls might happen as a result of stepping on stacked materials, water, ice, solvents, lubricants and more. These produce conditions that are not always apparent. What can you do to avoid this?

In cold weather, be alert to the potential presence of ice and snow patches on walkways and entrance stairs. Physical Plant treats these areas with salt and sand. However, there may be some untreated sections as a result of traffic. Remember that shaded areas take the longest to thaw and require extra caution.

As you enter buildings on wet days, remember to dry your feet at the entrance and proceed cautiously into the foyer until you determine the traction of your footwear. Walk with smaller steps and with your hands slightly away from your sides. DO NOT keep your hands in pockets as you transition into a building. If you are carrying something, use added care since these may add to balance problems. Close umbrellas before you enter to reduce water in the building and to reduce distractions as you move into the foyer.

IF A FALL OCCURS, you can minimize injury by falling correctly: Bend elbows and knees to absorb shock, roll with the fall, protect your head by tucking toward a collarbone, use hands and insides of forearms to help break the fall, yelling and exhaling as you fall. You will fare better in a fall if you are relatively loose and relaxed, rather than stiff and tight - that's one reason to yell when falling.


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Fire Safety

Please print and post this information for those that have limited access to email.


For 2010, the NFPA reported that 1,331,500 fires killed 3,120 people, injured 17,720 and cost 11.5 billion in property damage in the United States. Did you know that a small flame can grow into an out-of-control blaze in less than 30 seconds? Or that smoke and toxic gases from a fire kill more people than flames do? Here are some things that you can do to be prepared for a fire emergency:

At Home:

  1. Install smoke detectors on each level of your home and test them monthly.
  2. Change the batteries in your smoke detectors twice a year (New Years Day and July 4th are easy to remember).
  3. Keep fire extinguishers in your kitchen, garage, and automobile (and ensure they are in working order).
  4. Set up and practice a household fire escape plan.
  5. Make sure that everyone in the household knows two ways to escape from every room in your home.

At Work:

  1. Know your escape route options for your work area.
  2. Know where the fire extinguishers are in your room or area.
  3. Become familiar with how to use a fire extinguisher (training guide).
  4. Remember that elevators may not be used once a fire alarm sounds.
  5. An enclosed stairwell provides up to 90 minutes of protection from smoke and fire as long as the hallway doors remain closed.
  6. While on an upper floor of a building, individuals that require the use of equipment for mobility should proceed to the nearest fire exit stairwell and remain near the landing of the stairs but clear of the door and the stairway path.
  7. During a fire emergency, faculty and/or staff should alert emergency responders and University Police regarding the location and need for transport for individuals unable to evacuate.


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Summer Safety

Summer is a time that many of us have occasion to travel frequently and utilize portable gas cans for our lawn equipment or recreational vehicles. The subject of this safety minute is fueling vehicles and filling portable gasoline cans. The fueling process causes the release of a significant amount of gasoline vapors near the tank fill point on a vehicle or can. These vapors are extremely flammable when mixed in proper proportion with air. The introduction of a spark in the area of the vapors can cause them to ignite.

You may have occasionally noticed some (irritating) static sparks that happen when exiting a vehicle. These usually happen while contacting a metal part of your vehicle immediately after exiting. If a spark such as this occurs during the fueling process, it may ignite the vapors that are released. The chances of this may seem remote, but it happens more frequently than you might suspect. Further, it is easy to avoid by changing some things that you might be doing while fueling.

There is an attachment to this email that gives research findings and preventative suggestions. I would add to these that you should always remove a portable can from your trunk or truck bed and place the can directly on the ground before you start fueling. Always touch the metal on your car at a point away from the fuel door (i.e., touch the metal on the drivers' door) to release any such static buildup EVERYTIME you exit a vehicle to begin fueling.

Also, don't forget that cell phones are not intrinsically safe for use in an area that has flammable vapors; it is best to leave them in the vehicle while you are fueling!


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Severe Weather Planning

Hurricanes typically provide advanced warning and do not pose the same type of surprise element associated with tornados. Although the Eastern Shore has not historically been host to documented tornados, that may not be the case in the future. Please utilize the following information as guidance in the event of impending severe weather. Please be aware that the descriptions for "tornado" may be substituted with "hurricane".

TORNADO WATCH: Conditions are such that storms capable of producing a tornado may develop. During tornado watch conditions, authorities typically ask that smaller objects (such as mowers, grills, bicycles, etc.) are moved indoors to prevent them from becoming projectiles in tornadic winds.

TORNADO WARNING: A tornado has either been sighted or it is highly probable that one will develop. The issuance of a "warning" condition by the national weather service (and local news agencies) will be followed by instructions to quickly move to shelter. This is often referred to as "evacuate in-place".

EVACUATION IN-PLACE: Once a tornado warning has been issued it is important to not go outdoors; the exception would be if the area did not have an appropriate evacuation in-place (safe) area. The alternative is to briefly go outside to relocate to the nearest evacuation in-place location (e.g., Dogwood Village residents will evacuate into the lowest level of the Commons and occupants of storage buildings near the athletic fields should evacuate to Power Professional). However, be advised that this evacuation process currently applies to VERY FEW AREAS. Do not get in your car in an attempt to outrun a tornado as they have been known to toss even large trucks considerable distances.

DRIVING: If you are already driving and it appears that a tornado will overtake you, take shelter in the nearest building (interior room, lowest level, away from glass). If there is no nearby building, find a ditch and lie flat, face down, with your hands on the back of your head. Remember that it is difficult to determine whether or not a tornado is moving in your general direction!

RESIDENCE HALLS: When you are alerted, grab your pillow (don't forget your shoes) and go to the lowest floor(s) of your building. Many buildings have basements; use the lowest floors possible based on space availability. Stay away from windows and exterior doors. Follow the directions of your RAs.

St. Martins and Chesapeake should use their closet space; move your clothes to one side and place a chair in the open space. Chesapeake also has an enclosed stairway that can be used for evacuation in-place.

Dogwood residents will evacuate to the lowest level of the Commons and use the entrance near the post office. Move away from glass areas into corridors that are protected.

OFFICE OR CLASSROOM: When you are alerted, go to the lowest floor of your building if you are in an area with windows. Remain where you are if your office or classroom does not have windows. Stay away from windows and exterior doors until an "all-clear" is announced by University Police.

LARGE AREAS: When alerted in an auditorium, gymnasium or theater move away from areas with windows. In some cases it may be best to seek shelter in a nearby hallway than to stay a large area with a lot of windows.

HANDICAPPED: Handicapped persons who are mobility impaired must also make plans to evacuate in-place. If a power outage occurs during severe weather, elevators may not work. The mobility impaired should go to a small interior room or closet and avoid windows and exterior walls. If this type of safe area does not exist, the other occupants should provide assistance to move the mobility impaired to the evacuation in-place location.

PLAN AHEAD: Department Heads and their employees should seek out their best place for everyone to take shelter if the storm happens during working hours. Everyone should make similar plans at home. Make sure you have a portable radio, flashlight (with extra batteries), a first aid kit, work gloves, bottled water and canned food (with a manual can opener).


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