The Safety Office was set up in 1969 under what was then called the Personnel Department, today the Human Resources Department. By the mid-1970's, the demand for its services increased significantly and it was placed under the Assistant Vice Chancellor for Administrative Services and called the Safety & Risk Management (SRM) Department. The Department received significant input from both campus and system Safety & Risk Management Committees. Loss prevention and control was the primary mission, which was guided by the relatively new federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulations.

By the early-1980's , environmental protection was the new issue, and the department was expanded to accommodate the requirements of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). In the mid-1980's, the Safety & Risk Management Department was given responsibility for radiation safety, or health physics, and expanded again to accomodate and respond to a resurgence in industrial hygiene interests. At this point the SRM Department became the Environmental Health and Safety (EHS) Department, and reported directly to the Vice Chancellor for Administrative Services.

EHS became additionally responsible in the 1990's for Emergency Preparedness, Indoor Air Quality investigations, and the removal of barriers to access required by the Americans with Disabilities Act. EHS also began the task of closing an interim Treatment, Storage, and Disposal Facility permit opened upon the creation of the RCRA hazardous waste regulations.

In response to budget issues and administrative streamlining, EHS was consolidated into the Department of Institutional Safety, which includes the campus Police Department, Building Security, Parking and Transportation, Fleet Management, and Grounds Maintenance. By 2002, traditional EHS tasks were delegated to other departments or contracted out.