WKU hosts open forums for director search

Nick Bratcher

The director of Environment, Health and Safety is a job no one thinks of until things go wrong, but WKU hosted two open forums to fill the position last week.

Bryan Russell, head of the search committee and director of Planning, Design and Construction, said the role provides WKU with leadership and communication on life safety.

“We under-appreciate the role of environmental safety — the folks that check all the fire extinguishers and check all the hood fire-suppression systems,” he said. “You don’t ever need that stuff until something goes sideways.”

The candidates visited campus late last week. Bradley Coyle, environmental safety consultant for Linebach Funkhouser in Louisville, presented at Thursday’s open forum. David Oliver, supervisor of Health and Safety at General Motors’ Bowling Green facility, visited WKU on Friday.

Coyle, who graduated from WKU in 2000 with bachelor’s degrees in Geography and Geology, said WKU plays a major role as a university in keeping people safe and should seize that opportunity to set a standard.

“As a university, we want to try and get our programs out there to people and say, ‘Yeah, we are doing that, and frankly, it’s working pretty good for us,’” he said.

Coyle also said he hopes to get students, faculty and staff to “march to the beat of the same drum” in order to seize that opportunity.

“Everyone’s a stakeholder here,” he said. “We’ve got resources out the yin-yang. We need to make sure we utilize all those resources.”

Oliver, who graduated from Eastern Kentucky University with a master’s degree in Security, Safety and Emergency Management, presented at Friday’s open forum.

During his presentation, Oliver compared WKU’s Environment, Health and Safety objectives to a group of silos, each working independently of one another.

“That’s really where we started,” Oliver said. “The environmental folks played in their silo. The safety folks played in their silo. They were all very different practice areas, and we all sort of did our own thing.

“It’s the partnerships that have to happen across those areas.”

Oliver said WKU could accomplish that goal by combining a strategic way of thinking with a hands-on approach, especially with WKU’s partners and consumers — its students, faculty, staff and community.

“A lot of safety and environmental programs across the country teach their students to be strategic,” he said. “It doesn’t work in real life. We have to be prepared to roll up our sleeves to be tactical support for those.”

Russell said there is no definite time frame for filling the position after the forums.

“We’ll sit down as a group and talk,” he said. “If we have a consensus we’ll check his references and move forward to putting a job offer in, but there is not a time frame.

“We’re looking for the right candidate.”