Chris Desmet is 2023 Staff Employee of the Year for safety and heroism

Some of the best workers don’t realize the good they contribute until it’s been pointed out to them. Such is the case for Chris Desmet, the 2023 Staff Employee of the Year winner in the category of safety and heroism.

This award recognizes an employee who has demonstrated outstanding judgment or courage in an emergency; voluntarily risking his/her life or exhibited meritorious action to prevent injury, loss of life or prevented damage to or loss of property.

Desmet is the electrical shop supervisor who mains all electrical systems on campus with 11 electricians under his supervision.

“All I do is my job,” said Desmet. “I’m just me, and my team does all the work.”

Desmet and his team ensure everything electrical across campus is working correctly to avoid any potential safety hazards.

Damian Bess, facility management’s director of engineering nominated Desmet, praising his daily efforts and practices that protect campus.

“His leadership for accomplishing this extremely dangerous work safely is evident not only in his daily results but in some of the important new areas he is advancing,” wrote Bess. “He displays an incredible level of safety awareness and active leadership to promote safe operations in a very hazardous environment with great success.”

When Desmet started working at UNC Charlotte, he began implementing weekly training, which includes one hour for safety and one hour for job skill training. When it comes to electrical work, worker safety is of utmost priority. Desmet’s shop has had zero work incidents while completing 4,400 work orders over the course of 14,000 labor hours.

“I try to be thorough,” said Desmet. “I do building shutdowns every two weeks, and I make sure that my crew has proper flash suits and safety gear.”

His team also responded to 40 emergencies without injury or incident. A notable emergency was a system failure in the Bioinformatics Building in March 2023.

“One of the cooling units in an IT closet on the third floor developed a major leak, which caused several thousand gallons of cooling water to flood the three floors of the building” explained Bess. “All of this required Chris to reroute power several times, which is a hazardous process that his team completed safely under his expert leadership.”

His crew is always busy. There are 64 generators to check, as well as power distribution and light maintenance across campus. A big part of Desmet’s day is approving work orders. Yet, Desmet cites his team for the reason for his success.

“There’s a lot of work that goes into keeping the lights on and maintained in every building,” said Desmet. “It’s all thanks to my team. Truth be told, I couldn’t do it without them.”

The work of Desmet and his team reduces potential risks to the campus community, which helps create a safe atmosphere for learning and enjoyment. This effort though is not always seen by students, faculty and staff.

“He’s gone beyond the normal considerations and implemented new programs to increase the safety of his team as well as all of our facilities and their occupants,” concluded Bess. “Chris’ steadfast focus on safe operations of our electrical systems reflect great credit on him and UNC Charlotte.”

All winners will be recognized at UNC Charlotte’s Staff Employee of the Year event held Thursday, May 4.