Update from the President March 15, 2017

March 15, 2017

To the Campus Community,

After a lengthy trial, I want you to know that the jury verdict issued today in a lawsuit regarding asbestos in Stevenson Hall found that the building has in fact been “safe and healthful” for Sonoma State employees. The safe and healthful workplace finding validates the university’s belief that employees at Stevenson Hall have not been at risk.

Like most public buildings constructed before the late 1970s, several buildings on campus have asbestos-containing materials in them. Our ongoing testing and monitoring of conditions has shown no harmful levels of hazardous materials.  

While the jury’s “safe and healthful” finding is encouraging, the verdict also found that some past practices can be improved upon. We are reviewing those findings and are committed to taking additional appropriate proactive steps to ensure that Stevenson continues to be a safe and healthful workplace.

My office has been in Stevenson since my arrival at Sonoma State last July. Our Provost, Academic Senate and two deans also work in the building. Together, we share a commitment to provide a safe work environment for students and employees.  That’s why I am directing staff to review our practices and procedures regarding workplace safety and will share details about any necessary changes in the days and weeks ahead so everyone in Stevenson Hall feels safe and protected.

Additional information about Stevenson Hall can be found in the factsheet below.

Judy K. Sakaki signature

Judy K. Sakaki


Health & Safety Facts about Stevenson Hall and Asbestos

  • In Sargent v. Board of Trustees of CSU, the jury’s verdict included a “no” finding regarding the question of whether Sonoma State University failed to provide a “safe and healthful” environment.  In fact, the jury answered “no” to all four variations of this question. (Special Verdict questions #24, 39, 44 and 54).
  • In general, any building built prior to 1980 likely has in it materials containing asbestos, particularly an older building.  Some older campus buildings, including Stevenson Hall, are not unique in that regard and do have some building materials containing asbestos.
  • Cal OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) and other regulatory agencies have established levels under which nearly all workers may be repeatedly exposed to certain substances, day after day, over a working lifetime, without adverse health effects.  The levels established by those agencies include levels for asbestos.  Fiber length is an important factor regarding asbestos-related health risks, and under OSHA and NIOSH (National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) approved testing methods (7400 and 7402) only asbestos fibers longer than 5 microns (>5 μm) are counted.
  • SSU has been regularly conducting air monitoring tests in Stevenson Hall.  The results of those tests are posted on the EH&S (Environmental Health & Safety) website (http://www.sonoma.edu/ehs/).  During the past year, testing took place on the following days with the following results.
    • Feb. 16, 2017                12 samples taken.  No asbestos detected.
    • Oct. 25, 2016                12 samples taken.  No asbestos detected.
    • July 13, 2016                 12 samples taken.  No asbestos detected.
    • June 16, 2016                12 samples taken.  No asbestos detected.
    • May 24, 2016                 12 samples taken.  No asbestos detected.
    • April 21, 2016                11 samples taken.  No asbestos detected.
    • March 15, 2016             6 samples taken.  No asbestos detected.
    • March 8, 2016               12 samples taken.  No asbestos detected in 11 samples.          
  • Asbestos was detected in one sample (the amount detected was almost 100 times below the acceptable regulatory level).
  • Consistent with the jury’s finding that Stevenson Hall provides a “safe and healthful” environment, all of the testing conducted to date has shown that the health and safety of employees working in Stevenson Hall have not been, and are not being, endangered or put at risk due to asbestos exposure. 
  • SSU is not aware of any employee who has suffered any injury or harm from asbestos exposure due to working in Stevenson Hall.
  • In addition to air monitoring testing, SSU has done, and continues to do, several things to help maintain Stevenson Hall as a safe and healthy work environment as it relates to asbestos.  This includes:  
    • Sealing or replacing floor tiles containing asbestos.
    • Installing chair mats to prevent floor abrasion.
    • Replacing ceiling tiles containing asbestos.
    • Performing personal exposure assessments
    • Offering to clean any office of accumulated dust if an employee wishes his room/office cleaned.