Keene State College’s new partnership with the N.H. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) consultation program looks to expand educational opportunities for safety studies majors.
KSC received $438,000 in federal funding to offer free initial consultation services to New England businesses to ensure safety in the workplace.
The money will go towards paying the salaries of consultation staff, the lease cost for the building, and the cost of fleet vehicles, explained Melinda Treadwell, dean of professional and graduate studies. “The college is putting in $47,000,” for a total of $485,000 in funds.
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The OSHA Act, a federal law enacted in 1970, states guidelines for businesses to follow to ensure they are operating safely and with minimal health hazards.
During consultations, safety and health professionals visit businesses that have failed to comply with OSHA’s federal standards. Professionals explain how businesses can meet OSHA’s standards, Treadwell said.
Treadwell said she hopes students will be a part of the consultation services. “Having training under mentorship, but working in real world environments to solve technical challenges,” Treadwell said.
Currently, Keene State faculty teach at the Region 1 OSHA Training Institute and Education Center (OTIEC) located at the Ammon Center in Manchester, N.H. The Region 1 center works with six states: Conn., Mass., R.I., Vt., N.H., and Maine.
A cooperative agreement between KSC and the U.S. Dept. of Labor OSHA led to the opening of one of 12 national OSHA Training Institute and Education Centers. According to the OSHA New England website, in 1994 the center was opened to provide OSHA training courses at 18 satellite locations throughout the New England region.
The Region 1 OTIEC is the hub for training and education for employers and their employees, as well as for safety and health professionals. In addition to KSC faculty teaching at the center, KSC students have the opportunity to take courses through OSHA offerings, Treadwell said.
Currently, through the capstone program in the safety studies major at KSC, students provide mock consultations for businesses in surrounding areas.
KSC Associate Professor of Technology, Design, and Safety Studies Wayne Hartz said the course is designed to provide problem-based learning. “If there is a focus of our program it’s on application and being able to literally hit the ground running,” Hartz said.
Through the capstone program this semester, safety students are doing mock consultations at the Manchester School of Technology, the Currier Museum of Art, Boston University, and at B & R Machine Inc.
Hartz said students, for example, “evaluate lift hazards, paint hazards, and respiratory protection requirements” in the auto body shop at the Manchester School of Technology. At the Currier Museum of Art, students are evaluating the museum’s emergency action plan in case a fire were to break out. In Boston, students are evaluating the universities chemical handling in laboratories. [Students] work as a team and have to give a final presentation back to the client and prepare a written report. “We don’t want people to get injured, sick, or die on the job.”
Although safety studies major Sara Slovak said she has yet to take part in the capstone course, she said she has completed many classes through OSHA offerings. Slovak said by completing these classes students receive OSHA certifications pertaining to the area of the class.
“I have gotten certifications from health hazard awareness, OSHA record keeping rules, and occupational and safety heath standards for the general industry.” Slovak said gaining certifications will give her a leg up in the competitive job market. “The general industry will take a person with these certifications over someone who doesn’t have them.”
Although students at KSC have the opportunity to do hands-on mock consultations, Daivd May, KSC assistant professor of technology, design, and safety studies, said partnering with OSHA could potentially give KSC students one extra push forward.
“My hope is we would have the ability to give students experience with companies who are working on real life safety and health problems through this consultation mechanism.”
May said students review numerous aspects of businesses ranging from control and health issues surrounding toxic materials to using equipment safely while working alone. “Overall the safety program is trying to prevent and instill in people a safe culture,” May said.
According to Treadwell, “KSC is one of only three institutions that have brought together the training and education, consultations, and undergraduate and graduate programs in occupational safety and health.”
The Region 1 OTIEC is ranked fourth out of 12 OTIECs nationwide. “In the number of certificates and cards we issue, we are the fourth most active OSHA training center in the entire country,” Treadwell said.
Jordan Cuddemi can be contacted at Jcuddemi@keene-equinox.com.