Evaluating the relative status of health and safety programs for minority academic and research institutions

Robert John Emery, The University of Texas School of Public Health


A variety of occupational hazards are indigenous to academic and research institutions, ranging from traditional life safety concerns, such as fire safety and fall protection, to specialized occupational hygiene issues such as exposure to carcinogenic chemicals, radiation sources, and infectious microorganisms. Institutional health and safety programs are constantly challenged to establish and maintain adequate protective measures for this wide array of hazards. A unique subset of academic and research institutions are classified as historically Black universities which provide educational opportunities primarily to minority populations. State funded minority schools receive less resources than their non-minority counterparts, resulting in a reduced ability to provide certain programs and services. Comprehensive health and safety services for these institutions may be one of the services compromised, resulting in uncontrolled exposures to various workplace hazards. Such a result would also be contrary to the national health status objectives to improve preventive health care measures for minority populations. To determine if differences exist, a cross-sectional survey was performed to evaluate the relative status of health and safety programs present within minority and non-minority state-funded academic and research institutions. Data were obtained from direct mail questionnaires, supplemented by data from publicly available sources. Parameters for comparison included reported numbers of full and part-time health and safety staff, reported OSHA 200 log (or equivalent) values, and reported workers compensation experience modifiers. The relative impact of institutional minority status, institution size, and OSHA regulatory environment, was also assessed. Additional health and safety program descriptors were solicited in an attempt to develop a preliminary profile of the hazards present in this unique work setting. Survey forms were distributed to 24 minority and 51 non-minority institutions. A total of 72% of the questionnaires were returned, with 58% of the minority and 78% of the non-minority institutions participating. The mean number of reported full-time health and safety staff for the responding minority institutions was determined to be 1.14, compared to 3.12 for the responding non-minority institutions. Data distribution variances were stabilized using log-normal transformations, and although subsequent analysis indicated statistically significant differences, the differences were found to be predicted by institution size only, and not by minority status or OSHA regulatory environment. Similar results were noted for estimated full-time equivalent health and safety staffing levels. Significant differences were not noted between reported OSHA 200 log (or equivalent) data, and a lack of information provided on workers compensation experience modifiers prevented comparisons on insurance premium expenditures. Other health and safety program descriptive information obtained served to validate the study's presupposition that the inclusion criteria would encompass those organizations with occupational risks from all four major hazard categories. Worker medical surveillance programs appeared to exist at most institutions, but the specific tests completed were not readily identifiable. The results of this study serve as a preliminary description of the health and safety programs for a unique set of workplaces have not been previously investigated. Numerous opportunities for further research are noted, including efforts to quantify the relative amount of each hazard present, the further definition of the programs reported to be in place, determination of other means to measure health outcomes on campuses, and comparisons among other culturally diverse workplaces.

Subject Area

Public health|Minority & ethnic groups|Sociology

Recommended Citation

Emery, Robert John, "Evaluating the relative status of health and safety programs for minority academic and research institutions" (1997). Texas Medical Center Dissertations (via ProQuest). AAI9809540.