Inspections fail to please: Staff doesn’t uphold health and safety requirements

Residence Life hall directors and members of the maintenance staff conducted health and safety inspections last week at Mercyhurst College.

The goal of these inspections, which occur once a term, is to check that smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors are working properly as well as look for potential safety issues, Vice President for Student Life Dr. Gerry Tobin said.

“If that’s not getting done, that’s not a good thing,” Tobin said.

Despite Tobin’s concern for the safety of students, not all inspections were properly conducted.

The inspection at senior Claire Hinde’s East 41st townhouse consisted of a hall director and maintenance staff member asking if the residents had any problems that needed addressed.

“They didn’t even come inside,” Hinde said. “I could have left my Christmas lights up.”

The staff conducting the health and safety inspection at junior Chris Sands’ Lewis Avenue apartment went inside, but they did not check the smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.

“I think Residence Life and Maintenance failed to meet the objectives of health and safety inspections,” Sands said. “The health and safety inspections were pointless. They didn’t really check anything out.”

Staff conducting the inspections should do visual checks for items including candles, Christmas lights without the protective covering, an excessive amount of alcohol, drugs and kegs, Director of Residence Life Alice Agnew said.

The staff also checks to make sure there is not a significant amount of trash in the apartments that would cause health concerns, she said.

“The concern is, as you can imagine, is both for safety of occupants and the well being of property,” Tobin said.

To be able to do a full visual check, these inspections should take at least five minutes per residence and should cover every room and floor of the residence, Tobin said.

Even though every room should be inspected, the staff conducting the checks will not open cupboards or drawers.

The only instance they would do this is if they found something illegal. In this case, they would call Police and Safety and conduct a further search of the apartment.

“I think it’s fair to say our goal is not to catch people,” Tobin said. “If our goal is to catch people, we wouldn’t give a week’s warning.”

The smoke and carbon monoxide detectors were checked at junior Amanda Chance’s Highland Square apartment. She told the staff that the outside door and bathroom door do not shut, but nothing has yet been done to fix them.

This was not the first time Chance and her roommates informed maintenance about the issue with the doors.

Students who were not pleased with the effectiveness of their Health and Safety Inspection can notify Agnew at

“We certainly want to follow up on that so we better understand what’s going on,” Tobin said.