History

Princeton University EHS has its roots in the health physics program implemented to monitor radiation hazards at the height of the University’s Cold War research era. Recognizing a need for “a permanent, full-time industrial hygienist with special knowledge of toxicological, biological and chemical hazards,” an ad-hoc committee chaired by chemistry professor Walter Kauzmann recommended to then-president Robert Goheen in July 1969 that a new position be created with specific authority to monitor and enforce lab safety standards and respond to incidents that occur. 

As a result of this report, the University appointed Jack C. Faust director of environmental health in 1969. Faust became director of the newly-created Office of Occupational Health and Safety in 1971, which for the first time brought radiation safety, general safety and industrial hygiene under one roof. This “integrated safety” approach was championed by Faust as the best way for the University to meet its legal and moral responsibilities under the federal Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) of 1970.   

Faust, who first came to Princeton as a radiation safety officer in 1963, would head OHS until 1996. He was succeeded as director by Garth Walters, who oversaw expanded initiatives in workplace, biological and lab safety (Walters joined OHS in 1976 as an industrial hygienist). In 1997, OHS became Environmental Health and Safety (EHS), and oversight of the office was transferred from University Health Services to central administration. 

In 2013, Walters was succeeded by current EHS director Robin Izzo, who began her Princeton career as an industrial hygienist in 1992. Under Izzo, the office has seen several important new hires, a full website redesign, enhancement of the SHIELD reporting and tracking database and a strengthened partnership with Public Safety on emergency preparedness, outreach and response.   

Originally housed on the Forrestal Campus, the office moved to its current location at 262 Alexander Street in October 1997.

Timeline

1795: First chemistry laboratory in America set up in Nassau Hall by Prof. John Maclean.

1880: Founding of faculty sanitation committee in response to typhoid epidemic.

1892: McCosh Infirmary constructed.

1910: Department of Health and Physical Education founded (later renamed University Health Services). 

1951: Forrestal Center founded; federal funding requires new environmental health standards leading to Health Physics Section overeseeing radiation safety.  

1961: Radiation Safety Committee (RSC) established.

1962: Consultant recommends appointment of safety engineer and sees future need for industrial hygienist. Shortly afterward, Professor Alfred E. Sorenson of the School of Engineering is appointed part-time university safety engineer.

1969: After poisoning of student in chemical accident, ad-hoc Committee on Industrial Hygiene and Toxicology makes recommendation of full-time permanent industrial hygienist.

1969: Jack Faust named first University director of environmental health.

1970: Committee on Safety and Health (COSH) established. 

1971: Office of Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) established with Faust as director. 

1976: Subcommittee on Biohazardous Research established, later renamed Institutional Biosafety Committee.

1996: Garth Walters becomes OHS Director

1997: Name of office changed to Environmental Health and Safety (EHS); oversight transferred from University Health Services to central administration.

1997: EHS moves to 262 Alexander Road.

2000: Committee on Safety and Health renamed Environmental Safety and Risk Management Committee (ESRM) to encompass expanded focus.

2013: Robin Izzo named EHS director.