Every year it’s the same: the students are initially hesitant to make that first step onto the manual propelled lift that will hoist them up dozens of vertical feet in Fetzer Gym to hang their 22-foot banners. “Many hesitate due to the height, but I encourage them and remind them that this is what we trained for,” says Mary Crabtree, workplace safety manager in the Department of Environment, Health and Safety. “I tell them ‘You learned how to operate it safely.’”
Since 2012, Crabtree has been offering more than just encouragement to student volunteers from the non-profit Carolina for the Kids (CFTK), who set up the gym for the annual UNC Dance Marathon. She also offers safety training and oversight. To decorate the gym and make the annual fundraiser for UNC Children’s feel like a huge party, students on the CFTK Operations Committee cover all four wall in Fetzer Gym A and B with hundreds of tall banners that they spend days decorating in advance.
Crabtree started out by training around five students on the manual propelled lift; now she trains around 50. The safety program consists of an hour of classroom training and then two different sessions of nearly three-hour hands-on training, which she schedules after work hours to better accommodate the students’ class schedules. She also makes sure students take the online ladder safety training for some of the lower poster hanging that doesn’t require the lift.
Crabtree attends the Dance Marathon setup, which starts at 5 p.m. and can run as late as 3 a.m. She then returns after the marathon is over to help the students with breakdown. Her primary role is ensuring safe use of equipment and making sure everyone wears the hard hats and goggles that EHS donated for the cause, but the students say she does more than that.
“It is really cool to be able to use this kind of machinery to hang our banners as students ourselves and not have to hire someone else to do it,” says Irmak Saklayci ’19, CFTK operations chair. “This year we hung close to 300 banners, and we were able to do it independently because of Mary and her support.”
This year’s 24-hour no-sitting, no-sleeping UNC Dance Marathon hosted more than 2,000 students and raised $440,955.07 for UNC Children’s.
Student training and event support isn’t typical work for Crabtree and her team, she says. The EHS workplace safety team typically manages staff needs, such as workers compensation, the Employee Health Clinic, and services that support industrial maintenance, construction and clinic environments.