Candy Orr Honored for Leadership in Agricultural Health and Safety

Candy Orr at the pesticide storage complex.

Throughout the course of her 24-year career, Candy Orr has been dedicated to the safety and well-being of those she works with. She was recently recognized for her leadership in developing and maintaining a strong culture of health and safety within the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS), receiving an award from NC State and Eastman Chemical Company.

“I don’t tend to think of myself as doing anything that necessarily deserves recognition,” said Orr. “If there is something I’d like to be remembered for, it is that I did my best to model safety and to encourage people to do to the right thing.”

As the pesticide storage complex manager and health and safety coordinator for the University Field Laboratories, Orr is responsible for the pesticide storage complex at the Lake Wheeler Road Field Laboratory, ensuring it is safe, organized and clean. The complex of eight concrete bunkers securely stores the commercial and experimental pesticides needed for research projects conducted at the field laboratories.

She conducts annual inspections with a representative from each research project to ensure that the containers remain in good condition and none of the pesticides are past their expiration date. She also completes the annual federal reports.

Candy Orr with Marty Parish and Dustin Corbett within a pesticide storage bunker.
Candy Orr talks with Marty Parish and Dustin Corbett about what pesticides they use on their turfgrass fields.

As the health and safety coordinator, Orr has created safety orientations and ongoing safety training programs for all of the field laboratory sites — including the Butner Beef Cattle Field Laboratory, Pamlico Aquaculture Field Laboratory and Williamsdale Biofuels Field Laboratory — and most of the academic units located at the Lake Wheeler Road Field Laboratory, helping to keep her colleagues safe.

Since 2014, she has collected resource efficiency data from the research stations and field labs across the state, which she presented to CALS and North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services administrations. Her efforts to collect and review various efficiency measurements are used to align resources for current and emerging commodities, such as stevia and hemp, and to identify facilities in need of modernization or efficiency improvements.

“Candy is one of the most safety-conscious people I know,” said Natalie Hummel, an assistant director of the North Carolina Agricultural Research Service and director of NC State research stations and field labs. “She understands the diversity of work we do and finds reasonable ways to mitigate the risks. She is a lifelong learner, which helps her as she looks for new solutions to safety concerns.”

In early 2020, Orr expects to shift the pesticide management tool from Excel to Google Sheets so researchers will have access to their inventories and safety data sheets no matter where they are or what device they have with them.

Community impact

Orr’s impact goes beyond the CALS community. She served on Wake County’s Local Emergency Planning Committee (LEPC) for a decade. These committees are tasked with protecting the community from chemical hazards. She served as chair from 2013 to 2014. During her tenure, she convened a subcommittee to ensure that folks evacuating from natural disasters would have access to pet-friendly shelters, bringing the county into compliance with the 2006 Pets Evacuation and Transportation Standards Act. This act stemmed from the many avoidable deaths from Hurricane Katrina when people refused to evacuate without their pets.

As chair she also led state efforts to convince the EPA and the N.C. Division of Emergency Management to continue to fund E-Plan. E-Plan is a secure web-based chemical database that informs emergency responders of the hazards stored at facilities within their community.

“I am happy to report that E-Plan is alive and kicking today because of that,” Orr said. “I consider that one of my strong successes. Emergency responders need all the information they can get each time they put their lives on the line for the community.”

Orr came to a career in safety through a rather circuitous path. She earned a bachelor’s degree from Utah State University in wildlife management, and after a brief stretch with Utah’s Division of Wildlife Resources she went to The Ohio State, where she earned a master’s degree in entomology. She continued advanced course and field work in biological weed control at Simon Fraser University in British Columbia before moving to California to work for Union Carbide Agricultural Products as weed scientist for about five years.

After earning a teaching certificate, she returned to research at Iowa State University, focused on biological control of pest insects while also taking classes in occupational health and safety. In 1995, her career led her to NC State.

“I use every scrap of knowledge I’ve gained from each of the other opportunities I’ve had,” said Orr. “And I’m always ready to learn new things and tackle new tasks. What better place to work than at a university with access to all the world’s knowledge, if you only seek it out.”

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This post was originally published in College of Agriculture and Life Sciences News.