Humans of the U: Fred Monette

“I always found radioactivity interesting because of this concept that these fundamental building blocks of nature are inherently unstable. I had the opportunity to join a program that sent teams over to Siberia and monitored the dismantling of nuclear weapons. It’s a hard place to get to. You would fly to a town called Krasnoyarsk and then take a van ride to this secret town that was not on any maps. It was 40 below zero in January in Siberia and always dark. In the summer, I remember playing volleyball at midnight and it looked like broad daylight.

Safety shouldn’t be a standalone item. In every job you do, you should say, ‘What could go wrong when I do this? What can I do to make sure that thing doesn’t go wrong? And if it goes wrong, what do I have to do to mitigate the consequences?’ I think we will have arrived at a very healthy safety culture when we do a better job of sharing when things do go wrong so we can learn from our own mistakes and those of others before they’re repeated.

When I was 16 years old, I was doing a roofing project at my grandma’s. She put a chair down in the middle of her yard and said, ‘I’m just going to sit here and make sure you don’t fall.’ But I’m the only one that can make sure I don’t fall off that roof. She couldn’t do it for me. Safety really starts and ends with the people doing the work. EHS can’t be the ones in the lab making sure work is done safely. It’s a personal responsibility.

If you see something that concerns you, you’re probably not alone. Please let your supervisor know or call us and we will look into it.”

—Fred Monette, radiation safety officer and executive director of the Office of Environmental Health & Safety

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We’ll be featuring Humans of the U and sharing their stories throughout the year with the university community. If you know someone with a compelling story, let us know at