Brett Farmer wins Virginia Tech Award for Safety Excellence

Two Virginia Tech employees are being recognized for their commitment to maintaining a safe environment in university labs.

Brett Farmer and Brian Tissue have received the 2017 Virginia Tech Award for Safety Excellence.

Six other employees were nominated. They are:

  • Brian Gilmore, laboratory manager, Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute
  • Katrina Lasley, microbiology teaching laboratory coordinator, Department of Biological Sciences
  • Nicholas Maxwell, research assistant and laboratory manager, Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute
  • Kaitlin Read, research specialist and laboratory coordinator, Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute
  • Valerie Vaught, supervisor of diagnostic and support services, Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine
  • Paul Youmans, research associate and laboratory manager, Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute

The award, sponsored by the Office of Environmental Health and Safety in the Division of Administrative Services, recognizes members of the university community whose safety efforts or initiatives have resulted in a safer work environment or substantially helped eliminate or minimize loss or injury.

“It’s clear that Brett and Brian are passionate about safety and there’s no doubt that their work helps protect their co-workers, students, and the university community,” said Assistant Vice President of Environmental Health and Safety Lance Franklin.

Brett Farmer

Farmer is the supervisor of the Thomas M. Murray Structures and Materials Laboratory, which is located off Plantation Road in Blacksburg. The 17,000-square-foot lab is managed by the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering and includes a wide range of structural and materials testing equipment that can be used to conduct experimental research on full-scale structural components and conduct performance evaluations of civil engineering materials.

Farmer was recognized for leading the department’s effort to update safety policies and procedures in the lab after researchers started to take on larger-scale structural testing. The increase in the size of specimens, some weighing more than 40,000 pounds, brought an increased risk for injury and necessitated the update.

“On top of his lead technician and machining duties, Brett has done an excellent job of organizing and monitoring the safety policies and procedures at the laboratory,” said David W. Mokarem, a research associate in the lab. “As a result of Brett’s efforts, research at the laboratory is being conducted in a safer and more organized manner.”

Brian Tissue

Tissue, an associate professor of analytical and materials chemistry in the Department of Chemistry, was recognized for his leadership in the department’s ever-continuing efforts to improve safety in the department’s labs.

He is credited with proactively anticipating potential safety concerns and frequently going above and beyond departmental and administrative inspection requirements to implement protocols to avoid problems before they occur. During his time as the chair of the department’s Chemistry Safety Committee, Tissue has encouraged graduate students, who conduct the bulk of the research, to actively participate in the development of safety policy and decision-making.

“Since taking over a few years ago, Brian has dramatically altered the culture of safety in our department,” said Department of Chemistry assistant chair for research Thomas E. Bell. “Safety has become a regular topic at faculty meetings, in addition to research group meetings.”

Farmer and Tissue, along with all of this year’s nominees, were honored at a ceremony on April 11 at the Inn at Virginia Tech. The ceremony featured a presentation from nationally known “stunt scientist, experience engineer, inventor, TV producer, science presenter, and author” Steve Wolf.

Written by Abbey O’Farrell