Asee peer logo

Risk Assessment Of A Mechanical Engineering Department

Download Paper |


2008 Annual Conference & Exposition


Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Publication Date

June 22, 2008

Start Date

June 22, 2008

End Date

June 25, 2008



Conference Session

Mechanical Engineering Poster Session

Tagged Division

Mechanical Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

13.1055.1 - 13.1055.8



Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors


Greg Kremer Ohio University-Athens

visit author page

Dr. Kremer is an Associate Professor and Chair of the Mechanical Engineering Department at Ohio University. He teaches in the Mechanical Design area and has primary responsibility for the Capstone Design Experience. His main research interests are Energy and the Environment, especially as related to vehicle systems, and engineering education, especially related to integrated learning and professional skills. Dr. Kremer received his B.S. degree in Mechanical Engineering from Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology in 1989, his Ph.D. degree in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Cincinnati in 1998, and has five years of experience as a Mechanical Design Engineer at General Electric Aircraft Engines.

visit author page

Download Paper |

NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Risk Assessment of a Mechanical Engineering Department


In the spirit of continuous improvement, the Mechanical Engineering Department at Ohio University initiated a "risk assessment" process in the Fall of 2006 to take an open and honest look at all aspects of our department. Risks are potentially undesirable events, and examples of risks that are possible in a mechanical engineering department include extended sick leave for technical staff or faculty, a hiring freeze due to budget cuts, purchasing card restrictions due to misuse by University personnel, a faculty member leaving for industry mid-year, and the adverse reputational effects of misleading reporting of events in a student newspaper.

Although you may think that a risk assessment can only be done by a large department with lots of resources, that is not the case. Our department has about 250 undergraduates, 30 graduate students, 12 full time faculty, and three staff members. There are two research centers under the department, and overall the department and centers are involved in several million dollars worth of funded research. Our campus is primarily residential and is located in a small town.

Ohio University is similar to most universities in that we have a division of Safety and Risk Management that addresses risks on the university level, but this division does not deal with department-level risks. When we initiated our risk assessment, we were not able to find published examples of engineering department risk assessments for guidance. Department-level risk assessments were addressed in a talk by Ann Franke of Wise Results LLC, in which she identifies the main campus risk categories as: Financial, Operational, Life Safety, Compliance, and Reputational. Importantly, she identifies several risks to consider at the departmental level, including1: • Teaching risks (poor teacher/student boundaries, bias or fraud in grading, harassment, injury in classroom or laboratory, targeted violence against a professor • Research risks (loss of research data or specimens, misuse of grant money, data fabrication, plagiarism, failed collaborations) • Other risks: email privacy risks (non-university accounts), unfair student discipline, discrimination, plagiarism, embezzlement, tenure denial complications and lawsuits, loss of computer data, field trip accidents, suicide, etc. Operationally, Ann Franke advises to take a broad view of what could go wrong, focus on small steps for improvement, get help, follow up, adjust and stick with it for the long term.

Though not focused on college teaching, Dunklee et al in "A Primer for School Risk Management" identify the following relevant cases where school employees were found in the courts to be negligent2: • For inadequately warning students about experiments, machinery or equipment. • For assigning tasks that exceed the skill level of employees or students • For not following the syllabus • For insufficient safety training and inadequate enforcement of safety rules and regulations • For insufficient supervision

Kremer, G. (2008, June), Risk Assessment Of A Mechanical Engineering Department Paper presented at 2008 Annual Conference & Exposition, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. 10.18260/1-2--3639

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2008 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015