Occupational and Environmental Health and Safety

The Graduate Center is proud of its excellent safety record and is committed to providing a safe and healthful environment for its students, staff, faculty, visitors and other members of our college community. The Graduate Center attempts to accomplish this goal by periodically inspecting our facilities, identifying and controlling recognized hazards, planning for emergencies and communicating potential hazards to the college community.

This guide gives a brief overview of The Graduate Center's environmental and occupational health and safety program. If you have any questions regarding safety concerns while at The Graduate Center, speak with your supervisor or contact Security & Public Safety at (212) 817-7761.

Security & Public Safety – is responsible for assisting the Graduate Center community in the evaluation, planning, development, coordination and execution of health and safety programs in compliance with state and federal statutes and regulations. Security & Public Safety advises the Graduate Center community of its responsibilities, recommends actions, and consults with external agencies and regulatory bodies on behalf of the college. In addition, Security & Public Safety conducts periodic audits and makes recommendations for improvement.

Facilities Services and Campus Planning – is responsible for removing recognizable hazards through routine housekeeping and maintenance, or contracting with the appropriate experts.

Executive Officers, Directors of Centers & Institutes, Heads of Offices and Supervisors – are responsible for providing safe working conditions and implementing health and safety programs as they relate to operations and employees under their control. This includes providing appropriate safety equipment, reporting observed hazards to appropriate departments, curtailing any work that poses an imminent danger to health and safety and assuring that their employees attend any required safety training.

Employees – are responsible for complying with health and safety guidelines, attending required safety training, properly using provided safety equipment and promptly reporting accidents, injuries or hazards.

In 1980, the New York State legislature passed a law to ensure that employees be given information concerning the nature of toxic substances with which they are working and
the known and suspected health hazards of such toxic substances. The goals of this law

  • To help you reduce the risks involved in working with hazardous materials.
  • To transmit vital information to employees about real and potential hazards of substances in the workplace.
  • To reduce the incidence and cost of illness and injury resulting from hazardous substances.
  • To promote public employer's need and right to know about toxic substances.
  • To encourage a reduction in the volume and toxicity of hazardous substances.
  • You have the right to request and receive in writing within 72 hours (not including weekends and holidays), information on the hazardous chemicals with which you come in contact. If you do not receive the requested information, you have the right to refuse to work with the substance in question.
  • You have the right to be informed of hazardous chemicals used in your work area.
  • You have the right to have access to The Graduate Center's written Hazard Communication/Right-to-Know Program.
  • You have the right to file a complaint with OSHA (PESH) if you believe that you have been discriminated against due to the exercising of your rights under this standard. Note: OSHA is the federal organization, which has authority in the private sector as well as federal institutions. PESH (Public Employees Safety and Health Bureau) is "OSHA" for CUNY and other New York State public employees. Therefore, any complaints regarding health and safety should be addressed to PESH.
  • You have the right to know that you must not waive these rights as a condition of employment.
  • Prior to filing a PESH complaint, make all efforts to resolve the problem through your supervisor, the Human Resources, Security & Public Safety and through the labor/management process.
  • Make sure that the problem for which you are filing is covered by the OSHA Standard, or can be addressed under the OSHA General Duty Clause.
  • File the complaint with the nearest PESH office:

    New York City District Office
    345 Hudson Street
    Mail Stop 7F PO Box 683
    New York, NY 10014
    Tel (212) 352-6132
    Fax (212) 352-6138

  • Retain a copy of the complaint for your files.

Employees at the Graduate Center have the right to know the properties and potential safety hazards of substances to which they may be exposed. Such knowledge is essential to reducing the risk of occupational illness and injury.

What is a hazardous substance?

A hazardous substance is any substance that has physical hazards and/or health hazards. Physical hazards include fire, explosion and chemical reactivity. Health hazards include corrosives, irritants, sensitizers, toxins and carcinogens, and those that have target organ effects. Hazardous substances can enter the body through inhalation, eye contact, absorption and ingestion.

How do I find information on hazardous substances in my workplace?

Discuss this topic with your supervisor and review your department's Chemical Inventory Sheets. Your most immediate source for information can be found on labels attached to containers that hold various hazardous materials. Your second source of information is Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDSs) which will provide an in-depth analysis of the substance along with precautions necessary to handle the substance safely.

What information is provided on an MSDS?

OSHA specifies the information to be included on an MSDS, but does not prescribe the precise format for an MSDS. However, the MSDS must be in English and must include at least the following information:

  • Chemical Identity (Name of Substance)
  • Hazardous Ingredients
  • Physical and Chemical Characteristics
  • Fire and Explosive Hazard Data
  • Reactivity Data
  • Health Hazards
  • Routes of Body Entry
  • Permissible Exposure Limits (PEL)
  • Carcinogenic Factors
  • Precautions for Safe Handling and Use
  • Control Measures (Personal Protective Equipment)
  • Emergency First Aid Procedures
  • Special Instructions

Where can I find MSDSs?
Your department should have copies of the MSDS for the substances in your workplace if they accompanied the product shipment. If not, you can get a copy of an MSDS from Security & Public Safety (Room 9117, x7769 or x 7761).

Work related accidents and illnesses can occur when hazards are not obvious or escaped detection during a hazard analysis. Through prompt reporting and through an
accident/illness investigation, previously overlooked physical, environmental and work process hazards may be identified. Investigations also aid in eliminating unsafe work practices and identify safety-training topics. The primary focus of any workplace accident/illness investigation should be the determination of facts surrounding the incident and determining means of preventing reoccurrence.

Who Should Investigate

Supervisors should make their own initial investigation of all accidents that take place in their work area. The supervisor should be involved for the following reasons:

  • Supervisors have a responsibility to provide workers with a safe and healthful workplace.
  • Supervisors are often first on the scene and can observe conditions before they have been changed.
  • Supervisors know the workers and their work better than anyone else and are in the best position to gather facts and find a practical solution to the problem.
  • The supervisor's accident investigation can help promote better relations with workers by demonstrating concern for their safety and attention to accident prevention.

Security & Public Safety should also be contacted at x7777 so an Incident Report can be prepared. When circumstances warrant (e.g., complex technical issues, chemical exposures, serious injury) a more comprehensive follow-up investigation by other University offices or outside consultants may be conducted.

How to Investigate

As with most other tasks, skill in conducting effective investigations improves with experience. The following are good basic approaches in finding out what caused the accident and what can be done to prevent reoccurrences:

  • Maintain objectivity. The purpose is to determine the cause, not to assign blame.
  • Check the accident site and circumstances as soon as possible before anything has been moved.
  • Discuss the accident with injured person after first aid or medical treatment was given. Also interview anyone who witnessed the incident and anyone familiar with the conditions immediately before and after the incident.
  • Be thorough. Small details are often helpful in determining the accident's cause.
  • Reconstruct the sequence of events that resulted in the accident, considering all possible causes. Determine any unsafe conditions or actions that were contributing factors. Examples of factors might include unguarded machinery, broken tools or equipment, slippery floors; not following established procedures or insufficient training.
  • Write down all the details (including persons involved, time, date, location, witnesses, description of incident, contributing factors, corrective action taken, etc.) while they are fresh in your mind. Attach any witness statements, drawings or diagrams, floor plans and photos if available.

Investigation Results

Supervisors should take action to control or eliminate the
conditions that caused the accident once they have been conclusively identified. Security and Public Safety can provide assistance in determining the level of corrective action to be taken, such as the following:

  • Changes of equipment used and/or the addition of safeguards.
  • Issuing of personal protective equipment.
  • Changes in operations processes and policies to reduce or eliminate hazards.
  • Training of employees.

Any of the above should be done in consultation with your Executive Officer, Director or Head of Office.

Routine housekeeping and safety consciousness in the workplace can prevent accidents such as slips, trips and falls. Fire safety, electrical safety and an awareness of workplace violence are also important components in maintaining an illness and injury free work environment for The Graduate Center community.

General Safety

Housekeeping and general caution are key factors in avoiding accidents such as slips, trips and falls. To prevent injury, several general rules should be followed:

  • Keep floors clear of debris and spilled liquids.
  • Maintain floor coverings in good condition to avoid tripping hazards caused by loose tile and frayed carpet edging.
  • Keep designated walkways and doorways clear, unobstructed, and free of electrical cords, boxes and office equipment at all times.
  • When using file cabinets, file materials from the bottom to the top. Only open one file drawer at a time.
  • Use proper step stools, not chairs, when climbing to reach high items.
  • Properly store and handle any potentially hazardous chemicals.


  • If possible, identify the source of the odor.
  • Report the problem to Facilities Services & Campus Planning at x7730 and Security & Public Safety at x7777.
  • Inform your supervisor of any adverse health symptoms. Those in need of immediate medical attention should call 911 and Security & Public Safety at x7777.

Fire Safety

  • Know the location of fire alarm pull boxes, exits and fire extinguishers.
  • Keep exit corridors and stairways free from waste paper, boxes, dirty rags and
    other combustible storage.
  • Keep fire doors closed, except doors equipped with automatic closing devices.
  • Turn off or unplug electrical appliances such as coffee makers at the end of each working day.
  • Participate in regular fire drills.

Electrical Safety

Almost all workplace areas have the potential to present serious electrical hazards. To protect yourself, follow these important guidelines:

  • Avoid the use of extension cords as permanent wiring.
  • When using extension cords for temporary purposes, ensure that they are appropriately rated for the equipment.
  • Be sure the work surface is dry before operating electrical devices.
  • Never unplug equipment by pulling on the cord; always remove the plug.
  • Replace frayed or damaged cords.
  • Ensure that electrical cords are not damaged by being wedged against furniture or doors. Do not run cords under carpeting.
  • Only plug one piece of equipment into each outlet. Do not "daisy chain" extension cords and/or power strips.

Workplace Violence

Workplace violence is now considered to be covered under the Occupational Safety and Health Act's General Duty Clause - Section 5 (a) (1). The Graduate Center strives to provide employees and students a safe environment in which to live and work. Therefore, violence or threats of violence on campus will not be tolerated.

  • Any person experiencing or observing imminent violence should call NYPD at 911 and Security & Public Safety at x7777.
  • Take all threats of violence seriously.
  • Report all acts or threats of violence to your immediate supervisor and Security & Public Safety. Such reports will be promptly and thoroughly investigated.
  • Domestic violence can sometimes spill over to the workplace. If you are a victim of domestic violence and have an Order of Protection against your partner, inform Security & Public Safety so additional protective steps can be taken.

From time to time, CUNY students or employees may contract an infectious disease that can be spread through casual contact. In such circumstances, which could impact the health and safety of the CUNY community, students and employees should follow this protocol. If a student or an employee is in doubt whether an infectious disease is covered, he/she should contact the campus Health Services office.

When students contract an infectious disease that can be spread through casual contact, they should immediately report it to the campus Health Services Director. If the campus Health Services Director is unavailable, they should report it to the campus Chief Student Affairs Administrator. If the Student Affairs office is closed, they should report it to the campus Public Safety office. When employees contract an infectious disease that can be spread through casual contact, they should immediately report it to the Director of Human Resources, who is responsible for reporting it to the campus Health Services Director. If the Human Resources office is closed, they should report it to the campus Public Safety office. Employees should also inform their supervisor or department chair.
When a child in the campus Child Care Center contracts an infectious disease, the Child Care Center Director should report it to the campus Health Services Director and to the campus Chief Student Affairs Administrator. If the campus Health Services Director is unavailable and the Student Affairs office is closed, the Child Care Center Director should report it to the campus Public Safety office.
The campus Public Safety office should report cases involving students to the campus Chief Student Affairs Administrator, cases involving employees to the Director of Human Resources, and cases involving a child in the campus Child Care Center to the Health Services Director and to the Chief Student Affairs Administrator.

Please note the following information for the Graduate Center:

• Director of the Wellness Center – Robert Hatcher
Room 6425, 212-817-7029, rhatcher@gc.cuny.edu

• VP for Student Affairs – Matthew Schoengood
Room 7301, 212-817-7400, mschoengood@gc.cuny.edu

• Executive Director of Human Resources – David Boxill
Room 8403, 212-817-7706, dboxill@gc.cuny.edu

• Deputy Director of Human Resources – Juliet Montes
Room 8403, 212-817-7700, jmontes@gc.cuny.edu

• Director of Security & Public Safety – John Flaherty
Room 9117, 212-817-7761, jflaherty@gc.cuny.edu

Reporting should include as much information as possible, including:

  • names of the individuals involved
  • all available contact information for the individuals involved:
    • phone numbers (e.g., cell, home, office)
  • e-mail address(es)
  • emergency contact information
    • student information (if applicable):
  • classes
  • clubs
  • residence hall room numbers
  • friends and/or faculty members and their respective contact information
    • the date and time of the following:
  • diagnosis and/or symptoms
  • treatment
  • campus notification

Members of the University community who become aware of a student or an employee who has contracted an infectious disease that can be spread through casual contact are also encouraged to contact the campus Health Services Director or the Director of Human Resources, as appropriate, with that information.

The campus Health Services Director is responsible for notifying the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (as required), and other appropriate campus officials via e-mail or phone, and for notifying the University Director of Environmental, Health, Safety, and Risk Management and the University Director of Mental Health and Wellness Services via e-mail to healthreporting@mail.cuny.edu. If the Health Services Director is unavailable, the Chief Student Affairs Administrator is responsible for cases involving students and the Director of Human Resources is responsible for cases involving employees.

Confidentiality of personal information, including medical information and the name of the individual, must be respected to the fullest extent possible. Such information shall be disclosed only on a need-to-know basis.
If contact tracking is required, the campus Health Services Director is responsible for coordinating with NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, the campus Registrar and the Chief Student Affairs Administrator, for students, or the Director of Human Resources, for employees. Once contact tracking is complete, or if contact tracking is not required, the campus Health Services Director must document the tracking or the decision not to track.