Better Safe than Sorry

TSTC Human and Organization Development Associate Cindy Volney understands there is safety in numbers. Since 1997, she’s been involved with safety, retirement, and insurance for TSTC employees, and she said solving issues in these areas is a group effort.

“We are very proactive when it comes to our employees’ safety, and we work very closely with the state of Texas, the fire marshals, Texas Department of Insurance, and the State Office of Risk Management,” Volney said. “There’s not really a hazard we couldn’t take care of or reduce the risk of.”

So what kinds of risks or safety issues exist on college campuses? Volney listed health issues resulting from alcohol and drug usage and accidents caused by lack of knowledge and training as some possibilities. But she thinks TSTC students may have an advantage because of the particular safety courses offered in high-risk programs—such as “Electric Safety and Tools” in Electrical Power & Control and “Shop Safety and Procedures” in Diesel Equipment Technology. “I think these students are more attuned to what the risks are,” said Volney. Yet she warned students against complacency because safety will be an important issue after college as well. “In most of the fields that students are going into, those risks are things they need to worry about,” she explained.

TSTC students and employees are instructed on safety guidelines during student orientation and new-hire orientation, and Volney said these guidelines are important in risky situations. In new-hire orientation, employees learn about their rights, the causes of accidents, how to report accidents, unsafe working conditions, and the care of an injured person.

Volney said the most important issue in campus safety is communication. “We would like people to report things they see as unsafe,” she said. “I can’t correct something unless someone reports it.” Volney also said it’s important for students and employees to know which “direction” to go according to each safety or health issue—whether it’s the health-services nurse, the police station, or a hospital.

Volney, a Waco native, has a long history in safety and human resources. “It’s all I’ve ever known,” said Volney, who graduated high school and immediately jumped into the business. Since 1978, she’s worked for companies like Occidental Petroleum, Sandoz International, and Zoecon Industries. “It was really good training experience,” she said.

Volney puts her experience to work daily at TSTC. On a typical day, she may deal with an insurance problem, set up workers’ compensation and medical help for an employee, organize drug testing, or work with investing money for employee services. “I just try to alleviate what caused the problem,” she said.

She is also working to expand her basis of knowledge. Volney is currently going through the Environmental Health & Safety Technology program at TSTC. She takes classes such as Environmental Toxicology and Physical Hazards Control and hopes to move up in her career field. “All of my classes and the instructors have been great,” she said. “I look forward to all.”

Perhaps being a student as well as an employee gives her a unique view, but Volney is very interested in improving and updating TSTC safety information. “We could do more with communication,” she said, suggesting updating general safety guideline information and offering refresher courses for employees on safety guidelines explained at new-hire orientation as ways to improve communication between TSTC, staff, and students.

Volney’s advice for students and employees is to be aware of their surroundings and unsafe work areas. “It should be total awareness all the time,” she said.