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Collaboration at Its Best

Dental lab
Photo courtesy of the UNC-Chapel Hill Multimedia Library.
The UNC-Chapel Hill School of Dentistry value statement proclaims “passionately serving our people, our community, our field through inclusiveness and beyond excellence.” The School meets this statement through more than 117,000 annual patient visits in the three clinic settings. To meet the patient demand and move beyond excellence, the school replaced components of the vacuum system used to provide suction during dental procedures. The new equipment requires specific preventative maintenance procedures, which is the responsibility of Facilities Services. Additionally, the EPA “Dental Rule” outlines proper handling of mercury amalgam waste from dental procedures, and in 2020 will require the installation of mercury amalgam separators in the vacuum system. To meet the new challenges, the department of Environment, Health and Safety (EHS) initiated the development of a multifunctional team to address the preventative maintenance and mercury handling concerns.

The first goal was to develop a charter to provide the framework for the team’s objective and deliverables. The objective of the group is to review the use of mercury amalgams and maintenance work on the vacuum system at the School of Dentistry to ensure safe handling and proper disposal of amalgam waste and provide a safe working environment for employees. The team consists of members from Occupational and Environmental Hygiene, Workplace Safety, Chemical Safety, Facilities Services Maintenance and Facilities Services Engineering Services. The formation of the team will result in a safe work environment for employees working on the vacuum system and will ensure regulatory compliance.

To ensure a safe work environment, EHS conducted a personal protective equipment (PPE) assessment for vacuum system work to protect employees from mercury exposure until monitoring results were available. EHS adjusted the PPE requirements as monitoring results were obtained for various tasks. EHS also implemented a job safety briefing form to be completed prior to working on the vacuum system. This proactive tool provides the opportunity to discuss safety concerns and procedures, outline PPE requirements and identify hazards and controls prior to performing a specific task. EHS and Facilities Services Maintenance also collaborate on the development of job safety analyses (JSAs) for preventative maintenance activities and fine tune the JSAs once the activities are performed.

Facilities Services’ Maintenance team members provide valuable hands-on insight about the system, as they are the ones that work with the system daily. They provide feedback on the status of the system and the action items required to maintain the system for short and term goals. Engineering Services’ team members provide the technical expertise on how the system operates and improvements required for the system to function as designed.

The ultimate deliverable of the EHS and Facilities Services collaborative effort is a system description of the School of Dentistry’s vacuum system. The document will describe how the system works along with piping and instrumentation diagrams and include preventative maintenance JSAs with the proper PPE and waste disposal procedures required for the tasks. The team hopes this approach sets the precedent for establishing multifunctional teams to proactively tackle the challenges of maintaining a new system after the equipment becomes the responsibility of the University.

Performance measurement is a critical part of the EHS management system. Education, customer service and internal processes are the three most essential components of our work. The chart below indicates the performance in these areas over a five-year period with Level Four representing optimum performance. The adjacent tab shows the specific performance activities and the level of that performance for 2017.

Components, Years and Level Completed
Education Customer Service Internal Processes
2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017
4 4 4 4 4 4 4 4 4 4 4 2 2 2 3


  • Trained 586 employees from Maintenance, Housekeeping and Design and Construction Services on asbestos awareness through online and in-class training.
  • Trained 146 employees from Maintenance and Design/Construction Services on OSHA Lead-in Construction Standard through in-class and online training.
  • Trained 514 employees enrolled in the Hearing Conservation Program on Occupational Noise Safety through in-class and online training.
  • Developed and implemented online confined space awareness training for employees from Facilities Services and Energy Services.
  • Trained 10 employees from Facilities Services on confined space awareness via online training.
  • Trained 269 employees from Facilities Services, Energy Services and UNC Police on confined space via in-class and online training.
  • Trained 27 employees from Facilities Services, Energy Services and EHS on confined space job-specific protocols.
  • Trained 150 employees from Facilities Services and Energy Services on lockout/tagout through online training.
  • Trained 10 UNC-TV safety supervisors on the online Hazards Management Plan system.
  • Outlined the implementation of NFPA 70E requirements on UNC-CH’s campus with safety consultant from the North Carolina Office of State Human Resources and other UNC campus safety representatives.
  • Presented mercury cleanup procedures to 20 members of the EHS Emergency Response team to limit contamination during a response.

Customer Service

  • Conducted 80 lead and asbestos inspections, including building and material testing to support in-house maintenance and construction activity.
  • Conducted monitoring for asbestos during 10 internal small-scale removal and clean-up projects performed by the Insulation Shop.
  • Performed personal and area noise-monitoring assessments for Morehead Labs, Michael Hooker Research Center, Service Center of Excellence, and Dental School ME rooms during noise generating work activities or in response to noise concerns.
  • Coordinated mobile hearing tests for 227 employees enrolled in the Hearing Conservation Program, saving $5.5K for the tested departments.
  • Participated in the planning, review and implementation of 39 environmental remediation projects involving asbestos, lead, and mercury abatement. Multiple projects involved mold remediation. As CIP representatives of EHS, several projects included the selection of architectural and engineering firms.
  • Provided support to the confined space program by auditing entry forms, recommending confined space entry equipment, reviewing the confined space response contract with South Orange Rescue Squad and planning the annual confined space drill.
  • Conducted heat stress monitoring for worker in utilities tunnel at Woollen Gym in response to employee visit to the UEOHC.
  • Assisted UNC-TV with the development of their health and safety program by training employees on the online Hazards Management Plan (HMP) system, reviewing submitted HMPs, conducting HMP inspections at two sites and attending two safety committee meetings.
  • Met with IT employees in support of the Neutral Hosting/Distributed Antenna System (DAS) initiative to discuss revised RF assessments, card reader access to DAS building roofs and construction documents for the next phase.
  • Performed 29 indoor air-quality investigations within various campus buildings and responded to 24 odor complaints and recommended response actions.
  • Responded to 148 flood events, two of which were black water events. Assisted Building Services in determining the extent of the water damage.
  • Investigated 19 instances of mold contamination and recommended remediation protocols.

Internal Processes

  • Provided four mercury and asbestos abatement design specifications, including provision of a written scope of work, contractor pricing and hiring of the abatement contractor and consultant for Facilities Services, saving $65,000 for Facilities Services’ clients.
  • Provided mercury assessments and mercury cleanup guidance for five laboratory renovation projects and spill responses.
  • Conducted 47 Hazard Management Plan inspections for Facilities Services, Energy Services and departmental shops throughout campus. Many inspections included the development of JSAs.
  • Prepared 2017 assessment of spray-applied ceiling material at Carrington Hall.
  • Participated in OSHA inspection at Cogen and assisted in implementing corrective actions.
  • Developed JSA for PCB program to ensure environmental compliance.
  • Participated as a member of the Dental School Mercury committee to address concerns associated with maintenance of the vacuum system. The committee developed a charter and scheduled weekly meetings.
  • Developed PPE Assessment, Job Safety Briefing and conducted monitoring for mercury during work on the Dental School vacuum system.
  • Developed action plan for implementing OSHA crystalline silica requirements, presented requirements to FS management and sent out a questionnaire to determine use on campus.