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New head for new department

By Shannon O’Dea Dawson

Sheila Miller joined Memorial University on Jan. 5 to lead the Department of Health and Safety, a new department approved at the July 2008 Board of Regents meeting.

Ms. Miller is well-equipped to develop a blueprint for optimal performance through her diverse experience in research, nursing, counselling and health and safety. She has been working in health and safety since 1987 and brings with her a wealth of expertise in this area, having worked at the Health Care Corporation and with the Department of Transportation and Works.

Ms. Miller holds two national safety designations (CRSP and COHNC) and has most recently been a member of the OSH Certification Examination Committee with the Canadian Nurses Association. She graduated from the S.A. Grace General Hospital in 1979 and completed her degree in nursing from Memorial University in 1984.

In 1998, she finished a master’s of science applied in occupational health sciences from McGill University.

“I am delighted to return to Memorial,” exclaims Ms. Miller. “I have fond memories from when I was a student and now my daughter is enrolled in engineering. This new role is a challenging opportunity but one which connects well to the work I’ve done over the course of my career.”

Ms. Miller is responsible for the team of employees who transferred from Facilities Management to the Department of Health and Safety which reports to Kent Decker, vice-president administration and finance.

Already busy at work, Ms. Miller’s goals include a cross country environmental scan to review other universities health and safety programming including committee structures and the development of a perception survey for faculty, staff and students.

“While Memorial has many of the health and safety core elements at work, there needs to be a comprehensive and cohesive plan to further ensure the safety of all students, employees and visitors to campus,” said Ms. Miller. Once the scan is completed, a recommendations report is expected outlining potential structures for both the program and the committee structure.

“Universities are unique from a health and safety point of view,” added Ms. Miller. “Developing a program is easy. It’s getting people to follow it and ‘buy-in’ that is the challenge. This culture-shift will be key to success in the performance and implementation of health and safety practices at Memorial.”

With all the on-going work of the various health and safety committees, Facilities Management, SafetyNet, Human Resources, Faculty Relations, Research, senior leadership and others, Memorial intends to become the model for best practices in the province. Ms. Miller will lead all health and safety initiatives at Memorial with full support.

“To manage the risk, you have to understand it,” said Ms. Miller. “This is all about strategy, communication, training, team-building, prevention and performance measure. And we’re all in this together. I look forward to managing this change and helping to build a cohesive culture of health and safety."