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The Source

People Profile: Safety Bob

January 16, 2009

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Lewis & Clark is honoring five staff members for their dedicated years of service, including Robert “Safety Bob” Tomlin, risk management coordinator, who has been here for 15 years.

The Source caught up with Safety Bob to find out what makes him tick.

What did you aspire to be when you were a kid?

At age 4 I wanted to be garbage collector. Alec, the fellow who rode the garbage truck in our neighborhood was one of the nicest people you could meet and riding around on the big orange trucks looked like lots of fun. Ah, the innocence of youth!

What would you say is the highlight of your 15 years at Lewis & Clark?

Unfortunately the highlights were actually “low” lights. The bad things that happened seem to adhere to memory more than the good things (probably since far more thought and effort is required). Also, for me, the absolute best outcome is to be able to say “nothing happened.” That’s hard to quantify an accident or incident that didn’t happen due to prevention efforts. There’s a subversive thought that crops up from time to time: was it due to one’s efforts or was it just dumb luck?

Can you tell us about your nickname?

Safety Bob is one of the politer ones. Let’s just let it go at that.

What are some of the general safety tips you share with (demonstrate for?) the campus community?

Well let’s just break that down a little.

a. The leading injury cause for the past three years have been trips and falls. That’s evenly divided between indoors falls and outdoor falls. On the indoor side these usually occur on stairs. When using stairs remember:

(i) There’s a handrail—please use it.
(ii) If you’re carrying an object, try to carry it so that your view of the stairs is unobstructed.
(iii) Don’t try reading things while on stairways (no, I’m not joking; this actually occurred at Fields visual arts about 10 years ago).

On the outdoor side of things: when walking surfaces are wet, icy, or otherwise slippery:

(i) Wear low heeled, slip-resistant footwear.
(ii) Try walking with a “flat footed” step instead of the usual heel to toe step. This will maximize surface area on the downstep and give greater stability.
(iii) Be very cautious in getting out of your car onto slippery pavement.

b. If you notice you get a sore neck or shoulders after working on your computer for any significant amount of time the probability is your monitor is set too low to optimum viewing height. Your head weighs about the same as a bowling ball. If its bent forward and down looking at a computer monitor all the weight is being placed on the muscles of the neck and shoulders. By raising the monitor you bring your head back into alignment with your torso and thus evenly distribute the weight down through the trunk of the body. How can you raise your monitor? My favorite is to stack unopened reams of computer paper under the monitor base. Each ream is approximately 2 inches in height. Try two inches first and if that doesn’t move your head back try a second reams (4″) or even a third (6″). If that still doesn’t work call me and I’ll come over and look.

c. Fire safety: don’t use extension cords or multiplex adapters (that’s the thing you plug into an electrical outlet to created three or more additional outlets). These items are a fire hazard and constitute violations of fire and safety codes. Instead, use a power strip/surge protector. What’s the difference? The power strip/surge protector has 15 ampere circuit breaker built into it that will trip if there’s an overload (extension cords and multiplex adapters don’t have these).