This page is meant for students who have questions about our Health and Safety process and inspections, and aims to answer the most frequent questions we receive. If you did not find the information you need on this page, please feel free to contact our office (508-286-8214 or firstname.lastname@example.org).
What Are Health and Safety Inspections?
Health and Safety Inspections (H&S for short) are regular checks of all residential areas focused on ensuring that the buildings are fire safe and that no prohibited items are on campus.
Who conducts the inspections?
Any Residential Life staff member can conduct these inspections, though most commonly your floor’s RA or your building’s Residential Life Coordinator will be the ones conducting the inspection. Inspections are usually done by one or two staff members at a time.
Staff members within Physical Plant, Campus Safety, and members of the Norton Fire Department are also mindful of our Health and Safety policies. They can conduct their own inspections at any time. In particular the Norton Fire Department conducts regular inspections of all campus buildings throughout the year in which little or no notice is provided.
When do these inspections happen?
These checks happen a minimum of two times a year. Once in the fall and once in the spring. When the residence halls close or go to minimum occupancy (Winter Break and Summer Break) staff also enter rooms to ensure that the building is safe to be closed. A part of this procedure is continuing to ensure that no items that violate our Health and Safety policies are in the rooms. At their discretion, staff can also perform follow up inspections when violations are found, or can perform inspections if they have reason to believe that there is a violation present in a student room.
Are these inspections announced?
Several of these inspections are announced, publicized, or even scheduled with residents. However, inspections can also be unannounced.
Do I or my roommate(s) have to be present for my room’s inspection?
Yes, at least one resident should be present during the inspection.
What exactly happens during an inspection and what do staff members look in or at?
During a typical Health and Safety inspection* staff will enter a room and conduct what is called a “plain view search” of the space. This means that they are looking at anything in a room that is clearly visible to any degree. Staff do not open drawers, or closets, however if those have been left open their contents is included in the plain view search of the room. Generally doors or drawers are not opened by staff during a health and safety inspection, because the contents of those would not be in “plain view.”
Please be advised however that in most circumstances the area under student’s beds is considered in the field of “plain view,” though staff do not lift up sheets or move anything in attempts to see more than they can without touching anything.
*The College reserves the right to conduct an Administrative Search of a room if deemed necessary. Administrative searches can only be approved by the Dean of Students or designee. During these searches all room contents are subject to search.
What am I not allowed to have in my room?
No list that can be placed on a webpage will be 100% complete but the most common prohibited items are:
- Hot plates
- Space Heaters
- Lighter fluid
- Halogen Lamps
- Lava Lamps
- Appliances (microwaves aside from MicroFridge units, crock pots, pressure cookers, air fryers, rice cookers, etc)
- Cloth Wall Coverings (tapestries, flags, jerseys, etc.)
- String lights (battery-operated and/or LED lights are permitted)
- Alcohol (for students that are under 21)
- Illegal drugs or paraphernalia
How are prohibited items determined?
The list of prohibited items has been determined in collaboration with College and Norton officials. Including representation from Environmental Health and Safety, Norton Fire Department, Physical Plant, Campus Safety and Residential Life. The policies are based on both best practices for Colleges and Universities as well as state and local ordinance.
What happens if I have a prohibited item in my room?
In most cases the item is confiscated by the staff conducting the inspection and brought to a central location for your quad. Students will receive notification via their Wheaton email that a violation was found in their room. In order to retrieve your items, you will need to set up a meeting with your Residential Life Coordinator. Once you retrieve your items, you are expected to bring them back to your permanent off-campus residence.
In the event alcohol (in a room of a student that is under 21) is found during an inspection, it is poured out by staff. In the event that weapons, drugs, or paraphernalia are found, those items are confiscated by the Office of Campus Safety.
One of the items that I cannot have is important to a religious practice that I have, how do I balance my beliefs with the institution’s policies?
In the event a piece of cloth used for a religious purpose (such as a prayer flag for example) is framed, and thus behind glass or plastic, it is permissible under our policies. In the event candles are needed for a religious reason, our office recommends battery operated ones.
Will I go through that student conduct process for failing a health and safety inspection?
All health and safety violations go through the student conduct process. Many low-level violations will result in a warning unless there are repeated violations. More serious infractions will result in a conduct meeting and potentially additional sanctions.
Are there things that I can fail a health and safety inspection for that are not items?
Outside of prohibited items, the most common issue that is found during health and safety inspections are covered up smoke detectors. This puts our whole community at risk and can carry very significant repercussions that we prefer to save students from. Students are expected to never cover their smoke detectors for any reason at any time.
Students are also prohibited from hanging anything from any sprinkler pipes they may have in their room.
What happens if I have an item that is prohibited, but it is not in use?
Students frequently ask this about un-burned candles, or sting lights that have been unplugged and placed on the ground prior to an inspection. Given that these items are prohibited, whether they are in use at the time of the inspection or not, they are still subject to confiscation the same way string lights that are plugged in or candles that have been burned are.
What is the purpose of these inspections and the philosophy behind them?
Wheaton Residential Life Office fosters a community of approximately 1600 residential students and each one needs to be doing their part to ensure that their community is a safe as it can be. Something as small as a flame from one candle can have a very serious impact on a large part of our student population.
Part of living in a community means doing what is best for the whole campus, and this may sometimes be at odds with your personal design aesthetic for your room. By performing these inspections regularly our office hopes to do our part in trying to maintain a safe residential environment for all on-campus students.