Cal Poly Pomona is a pretty safe place to work and study because of people like Whitney Fields, the director of Institutional Risk and Emergency Management. Fields and the team he leads are responsible for ensuring the campus is as safe as possible.
Fields is new to campus and his job is new, too. The offices he oversees were brought under one roof during an administrative reorganization this year. They are:
Environmental Health & Safety (EH&S), which handles everything from implementation and coordination of safety compliance inspections of buildings, to issuing food permits, to regulating the flight of UAVS (drones) on campus.
Emergency Management, which develops plans for dealing with emergencies on campus, manages the building marshal program and coordinates with University Police.
Risk Management, which analyzes risks the university faces and tries to minimize them to prevent harm to people or damage to property and to reduce the university’s legal liabilities.
Fields also indirectly oversees safety at the university’s Rose Float program, which has inherent dangers associated with the use of power tools and metal fabrication.
Prior to his hiring at Cal Poly Pomona, Fields held high-profile jobs that included director of Safety and Risk Management, at the San Bernardino Community College District, Environmental Health and Safety Manager at the University of Redlands and Senior Environmental Health and Safety Officer at the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD). It was at LAUSD that Fields faced what he says was one of the biggest challenges in his professional career: lead contamination in school drinking water. It fell to Fields to coordinate a response/action plan for 160 of the district’s schools in his assigned district.
“That required a lot of conscientious effort and resources to respond to that,” he said.
In his new role, Fields will seek to build partnerships with surrounding communities, government agencies and higher education institutions. He hopes to bring in grant money for emergency disaster/preparedness initiatives and bolster the university’s Building Marshal program.
He also has a vision of making the departments he oversees more accessible to the campus community. He wants to streamline the process of filling out forms and make it easier for students to take safety training classes.
“I’m very customer service-oriented,” he says. “I want the campus community to feel comfortable coming to us with their needs, even confidentially. We’re here as a resource.”