Auburn Engineering the only academic institution among Green Cross Award semifinalists

Published: Sep 25, 2023 8:20 AM

By Joe McAdory

The Auburn University Samuel Ginn College of Engineering was recently recognized as the only academic institution among 36 National Safety Council (NSC) Green Cross Award semifinalists. How? By advocating for transformational research that doesn’t push the boundaries of safety.

“Striving for safety excellence doesn’t inhibit research progress,” said Emmanuel Winful, health and safety manager at the Samuel Ginn College of Engineering. “Safety excellence is finding ways to do things better.”

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The Green Cross Award is presented by the National Safety Council.

Auburn University President Chris Roberts, who served as the dean of Auburn Engineering from 2012-22, recognized the importance of increased safety within the college’s research, teaching, and outreach activities, according to Winful, and Roberts advocated for a change in mindset and practice during these activities. Winful, who was hired in 2018 in a newly established position, created the college’s safety council, recommended student organization safety liaisons, and familiarized himself with researchers. Several efforts to sustain a culture of safety within the college were initiated. They include:

  • Developing safety empowering programs and identifying resources necessary for implementation;
  • Creating a process for open dialogue;
  • Creating a process for hazard identification and risk assessment processes an integral part of the experimental design, theses, dissertations, extramurally funded projects, student organization projects and undergraduate and graduate education;
  • Empowering undergraduate and graduate students, postdoctoral fellows and visiting scholars, faculty and staff to freely voice safety concerns;
  • Implementing a process for safety education and training;
  • Integrating safety education and practices into engineering curricula;
  • Instituting a system of accountability, recognition and rewards.

“While research, teaching and outreach remain at the core of the college’s mission, safety is at the forefront of all that we do. Safety is part of our culture,” said Mario Eden, dean of engineering. “The lengths our college has taken to advocate safety, and the buy-in received from our researchers, faculty and students, is worthy of this esteemed recognition.”

Winful said safety advocacy, however, begins with establishing relationships and trust.

“Questions had to be asked… ‘What are ways I can help them improve?’ ‘How can I bridge the gap between university risk management and safety within our operations?’” he said. “A key change was allowing more faculty, staff and students to see the value that safety brings to their operations and letting them buy into the process. They now understand that our safety team is here to help them.

“During this process, Dr. Roberts was our cheerleader – echoing the value of safety during meetings with faculty, undergraduate classes such as ENGR 100 or with the department chairs. This support from leadership allowed faculty to understand that if the dean and administration see the value in what we do – and doing it safely – then we need to also make sure that we are letting our student researchers know about it. The positive tone for safety was set at the top, and it significantly changed individual perspectives towards it. Dr. Eden is carrying that same commitment forward.”

The NSC, the nation’s leading non-profit safety advocate, awards organizations that demonstrate alignment with its mission to save lives and prevent injuries – from the workplace to any place – through its prestigious Green Cross for Safety Award. This award honors three achievements: safety advocacy, excellence and innovation.

Auburn Engineering was among the organizations selected as semifinalists for both safety advocate and safety excellence. Safety advocate recognizes community partnerships, programs, individuals or coalitions that have made significant impacts on safety issues by advocating for proven or promising practices to raise awareness or policy change to prevent further injuries or deaths. Safety Excellence recognizes a corporation, coalition, or organization that is relentless in its pursuit of safety.

“While we did not secure a finalist position this time, I am genuinely excited about our progress toward safety excellence and advocacy within our research, teaching and outreach activities,” Winful said.

“For a college to be able to out-compete some multi-billion-dollar corporations shows that we are doing what needs to be done. Whether it’s implementing change or educating our faculty, staff and students, we are cultivating and sustaining cutting-edge research under the umbrella of safety.”

Media Contact: Joe McAdory,, 334.844.3447
Emmanuel Winful, right, is the college's health and safety manager.

Emmanuel Winful, right, is the college's health and safety manager.

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