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Solar Decathlon Profile: Safety Officer Lee Ann Underwood

Sunday, September 18, 2011

By Carol Anna

At the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon, safety is paramount.

Throughout the assembly, public exhibit, and disassembly phases of the event, Lead Safety Officer Lee Ann Underwood keeps a close watch on everyone’s well-being. Trained in environmental and occupational health, Lee Ann has worked as a safety officer for the Solar Decathlon since 2007. Lee Ann and her safety team, which includes safety officers Mary Ann Heaney and Steve Lappi, provide 24-hour coverage at the event with the mission of ensuring the safety of all participants.

Photo of woman crouching on the ground as a house is lowered by crane onto wooden blocks.

Lee Ann Underwood (far right), watches as the Team Florida (The University of South Florida, Florida State University, the University of Central Florida, and the University of Florida)) house gets placed on its foundation. (Credit: Carol Anna/U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon)

Seemingly shy and gentle, Lee Ann demonstrates little tolerance for unsafe practices that could take a life.

“We emphasize the importance of everyone wearing appropriate personal protective equipment—hard hats, safety glasses, and hard-toed boots—on the construction site,” Lee Ann says. “But my true concern is really hazardous activities. These include being under suspended loads, unsafe electrical practices, and fall risks—things that could take a life.”

During the public exhibit, Lee Ann’s work shifts focus. She thinks about what visitors will touch and makes sure the walkways are free of debris and trip hazards.

“I look for what I call attractive nuisances—things that kids will be drawn to play on or around and that might be dangerous,” she says.

Photo of a woman wearing safety glasses, hard hat, and vest.

Lee Ann Underwood is lead safety officer for the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon 2011. (Credit: Carol Anna/U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon)

With a career spanning nearly 25 years, Lee Ann is an environmental health and safety point of contact at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.

Carol Anna is the communications manager of the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon.

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