Bailey made emergency management a priority at Texas Tech

Texas Tech became the first university to be investigated by the U.S. Chemical Safety Board on Jan. 7, 2010, after a laboratory explosion left a graduate student seriously injured.

Taylor Eighmy, senior vice president of research at Texas Tech, said Guy Bailey, Tech’s president and leading candidate for the University of Alabama presidency, worked actively with both the school and CSB in the immediate and long-term aftermath of the accident.

“He was one of the first folks notified and was very engaged in working with local authorities, emergency response folks and law enforcement,” Eighmy said. “There was a long process that evolved out of the accident that says a lot about his [Bailey’s] leadership.”

The process that began that night was a coordinated effort by Bailey, Texas Tech and CSB to overhaul Tech’s laboratory safety procedures.

Following their investigation of the explosion, CSB gave Texas Tech two recommendations – update and revise their chemical hygiene plan and develop an incident and near-miss reporting program. On top of these recommendations, Bailey gave Texas Tech six more points to work on.

“Dr. Bailey has required that we as an institution undergo very dramatic changes about making sure we adopt a culture of laboratory safety,” Eighmy said. “We had to report back on that a few months ago to U.S. Chemical Safety Board and they were very pleased with the progress we are making not only with their recommendations but also with recommendations Dr. Bailey has made to us.”

Eighmy also said Texas Tech as a university remains prepared for crisis such as a tornado. In 1970, two tornadoes hit Lubbock, Texas and one severely damaged the University’s campus. The University created a plan in case a similar event was to occur and Eighmy said Bailey work closely on the University’s preparedness during his time at Tech.

“He is a huge champion of emergency management,” Eighmy said. “It really has been one of his planks as president.”

Steve Bryant, managing director of risk management for the TTU system, said in the time Bailey has been president of Texas Tech the January 2010 explosion was one of the biggest crisis he faced.

Risk Management is a small department that started 10 years ago within the TTU system. The department builds teams around the campus to identify and watch for areas that need attention.

“I think something that makes our risk management process effective is that our senior administrative folks are supportive of risk management,” Bryant said.

Bryant said he wouldn’t call Bailey a hands-on president when it comes to the risk management department, but that his support has been very helpful.

“It’s not uncommon from him to step in to strategy planning sessions to offer his thoughts,” Bryant said. “He’s sort of noses in and fingers out. By that I mean that he is quite interested in making sure that we are managing risk, that we are taking steps toward emergency management but he hires people and lets them do the work.”

In the year and a half since the January 2010 accident, Texas Tech had two more small explosions in October 2011 that occurred while the laboratories were unoccupied.

“The culture that we’re trying to change here is going to take some time and work, but a lot of efforts have gone into it and Dr. Bailey has been personally committed to this change,” Eighmy said.

Eighmy said much of the progress that has been made wouldn’t have occurred if Bailey hadn’t been so committed to the efforts.

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