Faculty of Engineering appoints staff Safety Engineer to enhance buildings and labs protection, COVID-19 response, and curriculum

Posted on November 05, 2020

John McKay outdoors
John McKay, Safety Engineer

COVID-19 has radically altered the way in which we deliver our curriculum and perform research in the spaces that we share on campus. From access control via QR codes at our building doors to careful planning for safe use of our spaces, the landscape has changed the way we work at Queen’s.

It is a grand undertaking, and the Faculty of Engineering & Applied Science’s new Safety Engineer, John McKay will have the Faculty’s response to the pandemic as his first major concern in his new role.

While it all seems like an organizational pivot to meet the demands of life in 2020, the role of the Faculty’s Safety Engineer has been under development for a while. As the Department Manager of Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) here at Queen’s, McKay has been thinking about safety as an operational and curricular function of the Faculty as a whole, long before COVID-19 struck. The overarching theme of suffusing our workplace with a culture of safety will have far reaching effects both on campus and in the effectiveness of our graduates in the workplace and in the community.

“My job is actually three parts now,” he said. “One part COVID, one part starting to work with stakeholders and contribute to the curriculum, and one part working on the actual safety inspections, and policies, as well as to provide support for our labs and workspaces.”

“COVID is taking a lot of our time right now.”

He is quick to point out this is not a one man show.

“Safety is driven by everyone in FEAS and the safety officers and the managers in each department are all over safety.”

“For example, we recently completed our annual inspections at the Coastal Lab and in Ellis Hall,” he added. “The technicians have put a ton of effort into improving safety procedures, casting a critical eye on housekeeping, and modeling safe behaviour. I saw a lot of pride and ownership during the visit.”

“It’s exciting, really,” he said, “and being able to help with development of the safety curriculum being perhaps the most exciting aspect. The instructors have put a lot of thought and work into how to structure the safety components for instruction. There is also industry interest in both the content and the outcome of weaving safety into our curriculum. This is good for everyone.”