A new option may be built into the safety major at Keene State College.

In the fall semester of 2018, an option for learning construction may be available.

The Chair of KSC’s Safety Department Professor Larry McDonald said how this degree has been under consideration for years now.

“A number of groups have come to us and asked us to add certain things to our safety program. We were approached by the Associate of General Contractors (AGC), which is just about all of the union contractors in the United States. We asked if we are to follow through with the academic program, then we would need the AGC to support the school financially.

Samantha Moore / Art Director

Samantha Moore / Art Director

They agreed and on November 13, 2015 the AGC and the President of Keene State College signed a memorandum of understanding.” he said.

McDonald cautioned that there are still multiple steps that need to be taken. “So far, the degree doesn’t exist yet. We are currently writing the curriculum proposal that will go to the College Senate this fall in September. So, that’s about a one-year process to complete and, assuming it’s approved by the College Senate, being a new program, it will also have to be approved by the president and the provost. Then, it would have to be approved by the University System of New Hampshire. So, it would hopefully start in the fall of 2018,” he said.

Professor of Safety and Occupational Health Applied  Wayne Hartz explained why KSC was chosen over any other college in the United States.”In construction we want critical thinkers, problem solvers, people working on a team and people who respect cultural differences. We want exceptional communication skills, written or verbal, person to person,” Hartz said.

“Keene State College has a reputation for producing students that can talk with people on the job and understand what to do from a management standpoint. They’ve actually asked a couple of other schools to take on this program. We’re the only school that was open to listening to what their proposal was and worked with them. It’s a compliment to the students and the graduates from KSC. They’ve given us a good reputation,” he said.

KSC safety major Heather Madden also explained that in the city of Keene, the construction industry programs are not as progressive as down south. “A lot of businesses up here are still not aware of how important safety is and they don’t even have safety representatives or safety teams to oversee companies,” she said.

“Like when I did my internship, for the entire company there was one safety manager and I was her assistant manager. But, usually there’s a team of three or four people. So, they’re definitely reaching out to try and bring people in,” she said.

Madden explained where there’s a need for safety construction in her plans after graduation this semester.

She said, “I’m moving to Nashville, Tennessee, in August because the opportunity down there so much more vast than up here.”

She continued, “Everything is construction, so I thought I might as well move and see what’s down there. Safety is such a huge up-and-coming field that they are really digging for people,” she said.

McDonald also described how the construction safety major has been a work in progress for years now and has shown an increasing profit. “For the past three semesters, on Wednesday nights there’s been a construction safety class that is actually taught by eight AGC experts that are guest speakers over the course of the semester. We also added a month-long intensive construction safety class in the summer. We had a waiting list of at least ten students for each section. Last year, it was extremely successful and it gave the students a huge boost to move forward on construction safety,”he said.

Mcdonald went on to say that not all students in the classes are signing up for the credit.

“Since we also operate the Osha Education Center for New England, we used their instructors for the classes so students can obtain their Osha certificates. It ended up making a profit for Keene State College, not only from students, but almost half of the students in the class came from industry so they can get their certificates,” he said.

Hartz explained that the Construction Safety major ensures safety on the job. “If you have a workforce that is safe on the job, nobody gets killed. There’s still 4,300 deaths a year, which is about thirteen people dying each day at their job. So, these construction companies figured out that they need to prevent occupational injuries and deaths while also getting the job done on time. Safety, quality and productivity are all related to the same thing. It’s really about management and leadership,” he said.

Madden also explained that she has heard a lot about the upcoming degree and has high hopes.

She said,“I think it’s really good because a lot of people that are recruiting for safety positions are construction companies. For years and years people have been doing these huge projects with huge injury and illness rates. It’s crazy to me. I think it’s awesome that they are finally trying to actually improve themselves.”

Grace Kelly can be contacted at gkelly@kscequinox.com