Student Life Editor
Safety students took on the role of safety professionals for their senior capstone projects.
Every senior who studies safety is required to take the capstone course. According to Brian Bethel, Assistant Clinical Professor and advisor for the Safety and Occupational Health Applied Sciences (SOHAS) department said that the capstone courses switched from classroom-based learning to experience-based last fall. He said he reached out to several employees and employers reached out to him in hopes of finding good placements for the students.
Justin Deflumeri, a Health and Safety manager for Monogram Foods and alumni of Keene State, reached out to Bethel in hopes of having students get involved in the company for their capstone. Bethel said that he thought teaming up with Monogram would be a great learning experience for students.
“Monogram was a particularly attractive business for a couple of reasons. One, very high speed manufacturing. So what does that? Everything is moving at a faster pace, the cadence is high, you have to learn how to adapt to a fast paced environment when you leave college and go off into the workforce so it was a great learning tool for our students,” Bethel said. “Secondly, their primary risk that they wanted us to work with was noise exposure and noise is one of the omnipresent hazards in the workplace. It’s present in manufacturing work sites, it’s present in service industry, it’s present in construction. So it’s horizontal across where our students go to work…so the learning was horizontal for our students.”
Monogram Foods is a company that manufactures and markets meat products, snacks and appetizers. Deflumeri said that the company preaches family and values its employees. He said he reached out to Bethel so students could get real life experience and learn what it’s like to be a safety professional. He recalled his time as a student and his frustration with his own work site manager and said he wanted to be there for the students and help them in anyway he can.
From the end of February to early April, Deflumeri worked with a group of students to figure out if the noise exposure at the Monogram foods facility in Wilmington Massachusetts followed the guidelines of NIOSH (National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health) and OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration).
On April 6, the students presented at Keene State to peers and professionals about their experience. Eric Sbona, a senior at Keene State and one of the student professionals working alongside Deflumeri, described his experience collecting noise samples involving the technique of sound mapping. Sbona said, “You take a small handheld machine and you go around and you take point samples. So that tells you how many decibels you are receiving in that area. So the areas with the highest decibel, that’s where went on to do this thing called dosimetry reading. Now dosimetry reading, it’s a small monitor you hook onto the employee and it takes readings of the noise that is constantly going by them so it’s based on an eight hour time period.” From there, he and his partner Denise Perera were able to average the decibels for each worker and found that in the area they worked in was actually underexposed and concluded that at least in that specific area, that Monogram did not have to implement a hearing conservation program or change the way their process currently functions.
Partners Jake Driscoll and Lydia St. Pierre did not respond in time to comment but also presented on noise monitoring and concluded the same results. Michael McDonough and Michael Varney were assigned to perform Job Hazard Analysis’ (JHA’s) for all of the job stations on Monogram Food’s newest product line. According to their presentation, they were able to identify the possible hazards from conveyor belts, pallet stacking positions, packaging machines and the box making machine and come up with real life solutions to combat the problems.
Perera and Sbona both said that the experience gave them confidence in going out in the field and wanted to give thanks to Deflumeri.
“I think that definitely Justin made the experience a lot better. He was super open, fun, and he made the experience like a lot easier than I thought it was going to be. A lot of other students kind of had not the best experience at their work sites just because it was either super loud or boring but Justin really made it fun and really made it an easy experience and he also taught us a lot. I think all and all it was a really good experience for us as seniors, as a capstone project to be able to go out there and do real work,” said Perera.
Sbona said, “He just showed us that safety can be enjoyable too, you know, it doesn’t have to be something that is like a burden. He was having a good time, it seemed like all the workers loved him and the workers even showed us the same sort of love so it was great it was really good experience and I think Justin, I think Monogram foods and I think the relationship with them and the safety program should continue because its super beneficial.”
Deflumeri said that one of the best things Monogram could have done was partnering with Keene State and admired the students’ drive, “as much as it was, they were very thankful and it was an honor for me to see how much passion and energy they have for the projects. They took everything with responsibility and it’s like they were the professionals working the job.”
Bethel, Deflumeri, Perera and Sbona all said that they hope that Keene State continues to work with Monogram in the future.
Jack Hanson can be contacted