Imagine working at a company that supplies clothes to department stores. Everything is going smoothly until, suddenly, one of your coworkers makes a mistake, and now instead of sending 200 shirts to a local outlet, they’re actually sending 2,000. They become so distressed by their mistake they have a heart attack and die right there in their cubicle. This may sound absurd to most people, but when it comes to construction, even a small mistake could mean the difference between life and death.

Jacob Paquin / Photo Editor

Jacob Paquin / Photo Editor

According to a report by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), 20 percent of worker fatalities in 2015 were in the field of construction. That may not sound like much, but as the Bureau of Labor Statistics discovered, when compared to other industries, the private construction sector had the most fatal injuries of that year.

Both OSHA and the Bureau of Labor Statistics agree that construction is one of the most dangerous occupations a person can have today, so what is being done to make it safer?

KSC  Associate Professor, WorkWiseNH Project Manager and faculty to the Safety & Occupational Health Applied Sciences (SOHAS) Program, Wayne Hartz is submitting a new program for approval that is aimed to keep construction workers safe. The proposed program, Construction Safety Sciences, will have many core concepts in common with the current SOHAS Program, but there will also be many new and exciting changes.

As of fall 2016, the SOHAS Program was the second largest department at the school with 1,020 graduate and undergraduate students enrolled. When commenting on the size of the program, Hartz said, “Our program and classes grew so fast that we lost some of the things that are important in teaching.” Those lost things, which he is hoping to reintroduce with this new program, are rigor and accountability.

To design this program, Hartz teamed up with an advisory committee comprised of KSC faculty and active members of the construction and construction safety industry to create something to best prepare students for the reality of the workplace.

The most noticeable change is the creation of nine new courses specifically dealing with construction safety and additional required courses, such as Elementary Spanish. These changes brought the major requirement from 44 credits to 100 credits. Although there is more content, the program is designed to be completed in three years by utilizing two required summer sessions and two construction internships.

Brady Keene, who completed his undergraduate degree at KSC and is now working for WorkWiseNH doing construction safety, thinks the rigor of the new program will put our students ahead of the curve. “The program will be focused towards that student that’s willing to put in that 110 percent effort,” said Keene. “We’ll be the first ones in the country to introduce a program that really produces high quality construction safety students, someone that’s ready to go right when they get in the field.” According to Keene, this new program will better prepare construction students for future job sites, both mentally and physically.

There are a number of requirements that students would have to meet to remain in the new program. Those requirements include maintaining an average GPA of 2.80, honoring KSC’s Code of Conduct, joining the student chapter of the American Society of Safety Professionals and joining Rho Kappa Sigma, the National Safety Honor Society. That may sound like a lot, but KSC graduate student Nate Stitchell thinks it would be good for upcoming construction safety students. “Not everyone’s an athlete, so not everyone’s a part of something bigger than just that course,” said Stitchell, “so being able to be part of a group that actually means something and can improve not just your education but others, I think, is huge.”

So what needs to happen for this program to become a reality?

The main obstacle is money. If the program obtains 25 new students per year for the first three years, the program will be cost-neutral. However, the initial start-up cost for those first three years still has to be paid and it’s difficult to get companies to invest in a program that has yet to be approved by the College and Senate curriculum committees. However, the Associated General Contractors Education Resource Fund (AGCERF) is willing to support the program on a financial level and has begun fundraising by accepting donations and pledges, but there is still a long way to go before they get what they need.

The program proposal has been drafted and was sent to Dean of Professional and Graduate Studies Dr. Karrie Kalich for approval this week. From there, it must go to the School Curriculum Committee for an evaluation and approval of its content. If it is approved, the Senate Curriculum Committee will then review and analyze the academic value of the program. If it has all three approvals, Construction Safety Sciences hopes to be made available by fall 2018.

Abbygail Vasas can be contacted at avasas@kscequinox.com