Kids’ Chance Mission: Providing Support to Families of Safety and Health Professionals

Kid's chance scholarship winner

Dave Mehlrose shares how he turned a negative situation into a positive impact

When Dave Mehlrose started his career as an electrician, he never imagined he would end up in a safety role, much less the leader. After being unjustly let go, at a previous company, (but then re-hired) and treated unfairly, by that same company, for a safety violation he was not properly trained on to begin with, he swore he would never treat anyone like that. “People just want to come to work, do a good job, and go home safely to their families. They may not know what all the rules are all the time, and that’s what we are here for. We aren’t safety cops; we are a resource for our people out in the field.”

Since learning about the implications that poor safety training can have on not only a company, but an individual, Dave has made it his mission to educate those around him. Today, Dave is the regional safety manager at Allison-Smith Company and says it’s “all about the education, and that’s why I choose to continue my professional development through Georgia Tech — they provide the best safety training classes.”

Resources for the Safety and Health Workforce

When a worker is severely injured or killed on the job, it doesn’t just affect them – it affects their entire family. Thinking about the future can be overwhelming, and if put off, when the time comes, the cost of higher education can be well out of reach.

The Georgia Tech OSHA Training Institute Education Center provides professional education for those with safety and health responsibilities in their workplaces, and has used a donation of one of our Safety & Health Professional Certificate Programs to benefit Kids’ Chance of Georgia for years. Kids’ Chance provides educational scholarships to the children of Georgia workers who have been seriously, catastrophically, or fatally injured in work-related accidents.

“Often, when people think of workplace safety or OSHA, they think of rules or laws. We must remember that those rules were written with immeasurable loss. They were written and established because every year, and still today, thousands of Americans died just going to work. Every one of those workers who didn’t come home – they left family, loved ones, a community behind. They left a story unfinished. The Kids’ Chance scholarships provide an opportunity for these children that might otherwise be out of reach for their family. It allows them to write another chapter,” said Hilarie Warren, Director GT OSHA Training Institute Education Center.

“The story of our certificate recipients – how they develop professionally in this field of workplace safety and health – being intertwined with the story of a Kids’ Chance scholarship recipient – it’s a chapter of hope and a chance to write their own future.”

Allison-Smith Company and Kids’ Chance Recipient

Mehlrose attended this year’s Georgia Safety, Health and Environmental Conference and placed the winning bid at the annual silent auction to win a full safety certificate in either construction or general industry from the Georgia Tech OSHA Training Institute Education Center through Georgia Tech Professional Education, a value of over $4000

This year, Mehlrose chose to pay it forward. Since he already had earned Georgia Tech’s Construction Safety Certificate, he gifted the opportunity to earn the certificate he won at the auction to his team member, Joseph McManigal, a safety professional at Allison-Smith Company.  Joseph will be able to earn his Safety and Health Certificate from Georgia Tech and continue his professional development through the support of the safety program at Allison-Smith Company and the Kids’ Chance program.

The Future of Safety

Mehlrose has taken numerous safety courses through the Georgia Tech OSHA Training Institute Education Center, starting with OSHA 500.  He is one course away from obtaining the Process Safety Management certificate and then will begin working on the Premier Occupational Safety and Health Certificate. He understands the importance of continuing education and says, “It is an absolute necessity for safety professionals. Without the resource in education, you just can’t do this job. Standards are changing and getting updated all the time. “

He sends all his employees to do their training at Georgia Tech. And when hiring, one of the selling points of working on the safety team at Allison-Smith, is that everyone will obtain training at Georgia Tech.

Sweet Success: Craft Cheese Manufacturer Pivots During Pandemic

Sweet Grass Dairy worker with cheese

In early 2020, Sweet Grass Dairy was in the midst of moving to a new larger production facility, when the COVID-19 pandemic hit and they lost nearly 78% of their business overnight. The Georgia Manufacturing Extension Partnership (GaMEP) worked with the company to shift their business from restaurants and specialty food stores to larger retailers and eCommerce customers by helping them write a food safety plan to meet new customer requirements, making improvements to their website, and reconfiguring their packaging area to accommodate new product formats.

Read the full Success Story here, and watch the video for more on how our partner GaMEP helped Sweet Grass Dairy implement a FSMA-compliant food safety plan, that also allowed them to pass audits for large retailers and customers.

From Family Legacy to Personal Passion

This is a guest post from our partner Georgia Tech Professional Education (GTPE).

Ty Hatcherson Main Image

How Ty Hatcherson found his unique calling in Workplace Safety & Health.

If there were ever an example of someone living fully in the present while keeping a trained eye on the future, that person would be Ty Hatcherson. As he nears completion of the Georgia Tech Professional Education (GTPE) Process Safety Management Program, Hatcherson is excited to bring new knowledge to a brand new job — and already thinking about where it will lead.

Family Roots

The Texas-based process operator knew from an early age that industry operations were his calling. “My father and grandfather were industrial engineers,” he says, and, as a boy, he was intrigued by the blueprints he saw them using. The future was calling.

Hatcherson went on to earn a B.S. in Industrial Technology from Texas Southern University. He launched his career as a hands-on production lead at Halliburton, a broad-ranging role that included equipment operation, team management, safety issues — and blueprint review. From there, he moved on to The Dow Chemical Company and then to Kimberly-Clark where he was a member of the team to receive the company’s 2020 Impact Award for winning innovation in a pilot project exploring the use of polymers in Kimberly-Clark’s traditionally paper products.

Discovering His Calling

When you ask Hatcherson about any of his positions, his enthusiasm is evident. This is a person who clearly enjoys his work and brings his all to each role. What drives him is the same inquiry, in whatever setting he finds himself in: “How can I help make that better? What aren’t we doing, and what do we need to be doing?”

For Hatcherson, those questions seemed to repeatedly arise in safety-related scenarios, and indeed, workplace safety has factored into each position he’s held. After a while, he realized it was something he wanted to pursue further.

“When you get out of college, you start work, and then you start to see,” he explains. “You think, ‘This is what I’m doing, but I want to do that.'” In this case, the “that” was Environmental Health and Safety. To make the transition, Hatcherson knew adding further expertise through education was the way to go. “Education can really get that going and accelerate it.”

He decided to focus on process safety management, a regulation established by OSHA that looks at all processes that involve handling, using, storing, moving, or manufacturing highly hazardous chemicals. It not only coincided with his interests but, in addition, “seemed like a hot career path.” The present and the future combined.

Pursing Professional Education

He enrolled in GTPE’s Process Safety Management Certificate Program, which is designed to increase understanding of OSHA principles and how to apply them, including hazard and protection analyses and documentation of process safety management compliance audits.

From Day One, Hatcherson was all in, frequently sharing online what he learned in class. “I am definitely excited to have completed this OSHA 511 course,” he wrote. “It informed me of how much information is missing from the day-to-day work environment.” Upon completing a Process Hazard Analysis course, he posted, “What I Learned in Class: the critical requirement for an effective PHA, the consequences of inaccurate or incomplete PHAs, how to evaluate consequences and the magnitude of harm, failure modes, human factors, and facility siting…”

His top takeaway: “Documentation!” It’s something, he says, that he’s frequently seen lacking. Working on a project, “we’d know we’d done something before. We’d done it many times. But it was never written down anywhere.”

“It’s definitely important to me to continue my education,” he says, “because in the field of operations, the process is always changing. By the process changing so much, there are equipment changes that have to be met. This certificate will help me with helping make those changes take effect.”

Tieing it All Together

Although working full-time, he fit in classes by using saved-up vacation time. The pandemic had moved classes online, and the father of two found himself in school alongside his then 11-year-old son and 5-year-old daughter. “They really liked that,” he recalls. “My daughter would say, ‘Let’s do homework together!’”

That experience was life-altering. Between commuting and working long hours on-site, “I didn’t realize how much I wasn’t there,” he reflects. It was an unexpected benefit to his decision to move into safety. “I don’t have to be present at all times,” he explains, as some work can be done from home. “It’s a better work-life balance.”

His next step is a new Process Operator job with LyondellBasell in Houston. The role includes more safety responsibilities, and Hatcherson hopes to move into a Process Safety Management position when one becomes available.

Will he pursue other professional certificates? “Oh, yes,” he says, without hesitation. “Maybe in IT, or supply chain, or HR….” As always, Hatcherson has his eye on the future, which he sees as full of possibility.

Georgia Tech Professional Education is a leader in innovative educational delivery, designed for working professionals in tech, business, and leadership. Our connection to the marketplace — coupled with our world-class faculty, researchers, and subject matter experts — provides an unparalleled perspective on education innovation, industry trends, future work, and lifelong learning. To uncover additional resources to help with questions and challenges around career advancement visit our Working & Learning page.

Taking Care of Your Employees in the Hybrid Era

This is a guest post from our partner Georgia Tech Professional Education (GTPE) featuring our Director of Georgia Tech’s OSHA Training Institute, Hilarie Warren.

two safety professionals talking

Why organizations across the globe will need to adapt and build processes that serve the needs of their people

Globally, workplaces, regardless of industry, are facing a momentous shift. While the pandemic was a catalyst for professionals to reexamine their relationship with work, it has also resulted in structural changes to employee expectations, in what is being referred to as the hybrid paradox.

While choosing how, when, and where work happens is still a top priority for talent recruitment and retention, employers are also now facing mounting pressures to support the physical, psychological, and social health of their workforces.

In the age of Covid-19, we have become acutely aware of the need to protect employees from illness and the benefit of having a comprehensive safety and health culture in place. But how can organizations now balance employees’ safety concerns. with the need for flexibility in the return to on-site work, while supporting mental health, human connection, and overall worker well-being?

As the director of Georgia Tech’s OSHA Training Institute, Hilarie Warren is familiar with emerging workplace challenges, particularly those relating to the pandemic such as psychological safety and communicable disease transmission. In response to the emerging hybrid workforce, she shares her perspective on the healthy work and workforce, and what it means for the entire safety and health profession – and beyond.

See her take on the most pressing issues below.

As workforces begin to return to work, many are adopting a hybrid approach to working. How can organizations strike a balance between maintaining a safe workplace while protecting an employee’s individual well-being and psychological security?

The “future of work” is THE phrase of 2022. The dynamic changes we have all experienced in the workplace and in our personal lives feel continuous and uncertain – daily, there is new input to integrate into decision making – and it’s exhausting. It’s no surprise that multiple recent studies report companies worldwide are struggling with expectation misalignment, increased stress and anxiety, and how to implement equitable, effective strategies that meet the needs of their diverse workforce. The concept of a “safe workplace” has expanded beyond preventing a deadly fall, hearing loss, or even following OSHA regulations – it’s about feeling valued, heard, and knowing your mental health and well-being are prioritized too.

Even in the years prior to COVID, occupational safety and health professionals were working to understand and measure the impact that certain working conditions and arrangements had on workers and their well-being (including physical, psychological, and social outcomes). The National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) Total Worker Health program is an approach that integrates work-related protections (in policy and practices) together with health promotion efforts to “advance worker well-being.” This holistic approach to enhancing worker well-being is applicable for small to large employers, and there are published questionnaires to help you get started. It’s important that organizations recognize the need for continued flexibility and adaptability when it comes to working out a framework for the next steps – there isn’t a one-size-fits-all model. Some companies and industry sectors never stopped having essential employees on the frontline; whereas others have been remote for over two years. Both scenarios – and all those in between – have impacted employees’ psychological security. Working to actively understand the challenges faced by all tiers of your organization, which may include acknowledging that many hourly, low-wage, minority, and entry-level workers were – and still are – at the highest risk for negative physical and psychological outcomes, will help find an approach that can meet all employee needs.

How does keeping employees safe on the job pay off in health, wellness, retention, and attainment of workers?

Safety and health programs are not meant to be written and stored on a shelf in a dusty corner. They are meant to be reassessed, reviewed, and improved as an integral part of your business strategy. Organizations who are willing to engage in conversation around these topics, foster transparency, ask hard questions, and take action to find and provide feedback contributes to employee wellness and retention. For example, before considering the resumption of in-person classes for our program in 2021, our instructors and staff talked at length about concerns and challenges, investigated cleaning and personal protective equipment protocols, and created policies around room capacities. We worked with facilities management to ensure adequate ventilation and air filtration measures were in place for classrooms, and put options in place to ensure instructors and students alike could move to a remote or alternative option if they ended up having to quarantine or became ill. These efforts were as much about physical health as they were about mental well-being. When an employee can trust that decisions are being made to protect their safety – and the safety and well-being of their families by proxy – stress is reduced and job satisfaction improves.

A recent Pew Research Center survey conducted by those studying the ongoing Great Resignation identified that while low pay and limited advancement opportunities are significant contributors to people leaving the workforce, another primary cited factor is feeling disrespected or devalued at work. I would put employee safety and well-being squarely into that category. When people are anxious to come to work – whether it’s fear of COVID or fear of workplace violence or any number of hazards – they are going to experience higher stress and decreased performance. They are not going to bring their best selves to the job, and that can have far-reaching ramifications. Add in fear of retaliation, potentially lost wages, and lack of access to PTO or those in alternative work arrangements – if organizations are not addressing these critical safety, health, and wellness concerns I would argue they are at risk for talent retention and recruitment. People want to work for organizations that value and respect their contributions and perspectives, and if they don’t experience that feeling, they might look elsewhere.

When it comes to health and safety, many organizations often operate reactively. When is the best time to implement new safety measures within your organization?

The sooner, the better. I encourage organizations to start with the conversation first, inclusive of stakeholders from every level: management, supervisors, people leaders, operations, and the front line – and review potential risks, severity outcomes, and available resources for control strategies. Consult with an occupational/environmental safety and health professional if you don’t have one on staff; these individuals can help organizations identify where and how to start to achieve the identified goals. The best outcomes are when the measures implemented have buy-in from all affected parties; giving employees an opportunity to be part of the decision-making process is a key component we look for when assisting companies with safety and health strategies. Those are the measures that have longevity and high employee adherence – and prevent the “fizzle out” that can occur with reactionary action.

Looking into the future, employers must reframe how they think about workplace safety, health, and wellness. When companies jump into implementing new safety measures reactively, sometimes there are unintended outcomes. For example, in the early days of COVID, we saw companies start using large quantities of new chemicals to disinfect or clean workplaces, often without appropriate employee training on the application or understanding the hazards of breathing in the airborne chemicals or getting them on the skin. To act preventively, give priority to those measures that can improve working conditions – including both physical and psychological wellbeing. Measures should be part of the daily, weekly, and monthly conversation and goals, with follow-up assignments and accountability. Without full championing and investment from the top level of the organization, new safety and health initiatives can wither and fade away – until the next crisis arrives.

The Georgia Tech OSHA Training Institute Education Center offers safety and health courses in more than 20 topics throughout Region IV, an area covering Florida, Georgia, Alabama, South Carolina, North Carolina, Mississippi, Tennessee, and Kentucky. For more information about how you can build immediately applicable skills, address the needs of your employer, and stay current with OSHA guidelines, visit our safety and health training page.

National Safety Month: Top OSHA Violations

This is a guest post from our partner Georgia Tech Professional Education (GTPE).

Safety professionials meeting

From construction to general industry, here are the top five most frequently cited standards and the training solutions to avoid costly fines

Jobs in industries such as construction and manufacturing are prone to high numbers of work-related injuries largely due in part to their use of industrial machinery, as well as the nature of the work itself and the spaces in which the jobs must be performed. While some of the most common accidents are the result of employees slipping and falling in the workplace, other on-the-job injuries include electrical injuries, getting struck by an object, or getting caught in-between equipment and structures.

Each year, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) releases its list of top frequently cited standards as a resource for employers to determine the top hazards in the industry they service. In 2021, the top 10 violations on the list, which encompasses both the construction and general industry, totaled 24,550.

As part of National Safety Month, we’re delving into the top five violations, along with suggested OSHA training solutions that can help guide your internal safety audit programs.

Fall Protection – General Requirements

Total Violations: 5,295

OSHA statistics have shown that falls are the leading cause of U.S. construction site deaths and year after year, fall protection continues to top the list. Covering both construction and all other industries, citations are most often issued for lack of fall protection measures such as guardrails, covering floor openings, and personal fall arrest systems.

Training Solutions: OSHA 510 and OSHA 3115

Respiratory Protection

Total Violations: 2,527

While respiratory protection is one of the easiest of the standards with which to comply, it’s often one employers overlook or ignore. The most common violation of the standard is failure to have workers undergo medical evaluation prior to respirator use. Other violations include not having a written respiratory protection plan and not providing employees with adequate fit tests before initial use and annually thereafter. Failure to conduct air sampling to select the correct type of respirator is also a common violation and can have deadly results.

Training Solutions: OSHA 511OSHA 521OSHA 2225, and EST 7009

Ladders

Total Violations: 2,026

Stairways and ladders are major sources of injuries and fatalities among health and safety workers and used in both construction and general industry. In general, there are three categories of ladders used in the workplace: stepladders, portable ladders, and fixed ladders. OSHA has general rules that apply to all ladders, as well as specific regulations for how much weight a ladder can bear to the position of a ladder and even ladder care and maintenance. Most OSHA violations related to ladders result in simple misuse and mismeasurement.

Training Solutions: OSHA 510OSHA 511, and OSHA 3115

Scaffolding

Total Violations: 1,948

The second fall-related violation, scaffolding, accounts for 65% of the day-to-day work in the construction industry. Common citations include not protecting employees from falling to a lower level, not fully planking the entire scaffold, and not providing safe access to scaffold platforms.

Training Solutions: OSHA 510 and Scaffolding Safety

Hazard Communication

Total Violations: 1,947

In industries where workers might be exposed to hazardous materials, it is critical to protect worker health. Correct handling and disposal of toxic substances at the industry level requires proven skills, knowledge, and competence from workers. OSHA’s standards for handling hazardous materials ensure clear communication of hazard information on chemical labels and also require training sessions for workers on the potential environmental and biological effects of these materials and the OSHA-approved procedures for handling them.

Training Solutions: OSHA 511 and OSHA 521

OSHA-Related Training Saves You Money

Failing to be in compliance and violating these standards can be very costly to the lives of your employees and the livelihood of your company. In 2020, the U.S. experienced 55.4 million workplace injuries resulting in over $1 billion in associated costs, according to the National Safety Council.

To reduce the risk and cost of injury, employers should ensure all workers have access to adequate training, while implementing a comprehensive health and safety program.

As an authorized OSHA Training Institute Education Center, Georgia Tech Professional Education offers nationally recognized OSHA training for the construction and general industries. From flexible training courses to in-depth program certificates and a Master’s in Occupational Safety and Health degree, we offer valuable safety and health solutions to help you and your employees identify hazards in your workplace and the on-the-job knowledge to prevent them.

For more information on our other Safety and Health Services, visit our Consultation page.

Reducing risk through sanitation safety and operational efficiency

Man is food manufacturing plant

With the growing demand for increased production, the time for sanitation activities has been reduced, leaving third shift maintenance workers pressed for time to get machines cleaned and the production lines ready for the morning shift. This, coupled with less supervision, harsh environmental conditions, and numerous hazards like chemical exposure, burns, slips/trips/falls, and debilitating fatigue can lead to greater risk for these individuals.

In their article, Into the Wee Hours, Sanitation and Safety Keep Working Side by Side, Georgia Tech safety and health experts Hilarie Warren and Jenny Houlroyd teamed up with Wendy White, Georgia Manufacturing Extension Partnership (GaMEP) food and beverage industry manager, to explain why sanitation is a critical component to keep food manufacturing companies functional and profitable. Yet, without adequate training and improved controls, there is a higher risk for both food and worker safety.

That begs the question, why is employee safety exclusively designed for operational workers and is not inclusive of sanitation crews? According to the article, “Food safety managers and quality assurance leaders can significantly contribute to the physical safety of sanitation workers by more fully exploring the inherent hazards and risks of appropriately cleaning the processing equipment.”

Read the entire article Into the Wee Hours, Sanitation and Safety Keep Working Side by Side for more in depth information on how proper pre-planning, noting the obstacles, and committing to ongoing feedback and improvement between crews and departments can help alleviate these risks. And listen to the podcast The Intersection of Food Safety and Worker Safety where our food safety gurus discuss the difficulties third-shift workers face with regard to safety and workplace culture, and the importance of internal communication between food safety and personnel safety departments.

 

Hilarie Warren, M.P.H., C.I.H., currently manages the OSHA Training Institute (OTI) Education Center at Georgia Tech. She enjoys helping companies translate regulatory requirements and move into implementation by providing opportunities for training attendees to share best practices and stories.

Jenny Houlroyd, M.S.P.H., C.I.H., has worked as an industrial hygienist with the OSHA Consultation Program for 16 years, providing onsite OSHA compliance assistance for businesses throughout the state of Georgia. She currently serves as the Manager of the Occupational Health Group for that program. This free program is designed for small- and medium-sized companies to assist employers with achieving regulatory compliance and ensuring that they provide safe and healthful working environments for employees.

Wendy White, M.Sc., is the Industry Manager for Food and Beverage at Georgia Tech’s Manufacturing Extension Partnership (GaMEP), and helps food companies achieve compliance with regulations and customer expectations. She is also a member of the Editorial Advisory Board of Food Safety Magazine.

 

Keeping Workplaces Healthy and Safe

This is a guest post from our partner Georgia Tech Professional Education (GTPE).

Cara Eck certificate

How Cara Eck utilized safety and health training to transition from research safety into industrial hygiene

Cara Eck is a picture of lifelong learning. Having discovered her passion for safety and health, her career and learning journeys are evidence of the value that professional education provides for those who want to grow in — and beyond — their expertise.

Beginnings in Safety and Health

After receiving her bachelor’s degree in forestry, Eck decided to pursue a different career direction and began working in research safety at the University of Georgia (UGA). With over 2,000 research labs that use chemicals as well as biological and radioactive materials, UGA relies on its Office of Research Safety to ensure the safety of its research employees, even though it is not mandated by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). As the Assistant Safety and Compliance Officer, she supervised the labs’ safety standards and protocols — specifically related to chemical storage and safety equipment — to ensure that they were adhering to federal, state, and university guidelines.

Eck was drawn to the occupational safety and health (OSH) industry because of its direct, positive impact on the people it serves. “There are very few jobs out there right now that allow you to do something that makes such a huge impact on people,” she said. “Not just one or two people, but a lot of people.” Every day, Eck’s safety inspections and recommendations helped save lives by creating safer work environments for the many employees who worked there.

Pursuing a Master’s in Occupational Safety and Health

When Eck’s boss, an alumnus of Georgia Tech, received an email about Georgia Tech’s Professional Master’s in Occupational Safety and Health (PMOSH) program, he encouraged her to enroll.

Throughout the two-year learning experience, Eck continued to work full-time, and she found that everything she learned through PMOSH directly applied to her work in research safety, and she enjoyed adding new knowledge to her repertoire by learning the foundations of OSHA, which provided new perspectives and practices that she could apply in her workplace. “I found it very valuable to be able to take things I was not familiar with and apply to my department,” she said.

Although she was working full-time, Eck was not overwhelmed by balancing work, learning, and life. The courses were rigorous and demanding, but their slow pacing made them manageable. She took only one online class at a time, each of which focused on one topic over seven weeks, and they provided several opportunities and resources for her to seek out assistance and information when needed.

Beyond the content, Eck also greatly benefitted from the community of the PMOSH program. From orientation to her final capstone project, she learned from and grew with her fellow cohort members. “My cohort members were amazing,” she recalled. “They were professionals who knew their craft forwards and backward, so when it came to working with them, I gained so much knowledge from them that was over and above the program itself.” She became good friends with her classmates, and she continues to stay in contact with them. “I still have a relationship with these people. We keep in touch because we actually lean on one another for information and advice.”

The Transition to Industrial Hygiene

Through the PMOSH program, Eck learned about Georgia Tech’s Industrial Hygiene and Occupational Safety Program. One of her favorite instructors, Jenny Houlroyd, taught an introduction to industrial hygiene course, and she both loved the content and excelled in learning. When she learned that a job opportunity opened in the Industrial Hygiene program at Georgia Tech, she was interested in gaining new skills from a different perspective within the safety industry. “I could not pass up the opportunity to see if Tech could be another place for me to grow in my skills.” She applied for the position and got the job. After graduating from the PMOSH program in August 2021, she began working as an industrial hygienist for Georgia Tech in November.

In her new role, Eck has been able to apply everything she learned in PMOSH in her day-to-day responsibilities as she provides consultations on safety and health standards at construction sites around Atlanta. By reviewing various aspects of the sites that may affect workers’ safety and health, like air quality and noise levels, she provides recommendations to minimize the risk of injury or accidents, which include measures such as personal protective wear equipment, administrative controls, and engineering controls.

Though she has pivoted to a new field within the industry, Eck still enjoys the knowledge that she has helped safeguard her clients’ workplaces and improved their work experiences. The safety recommendations that she provides every day “could mean that somebody who might have had some serious accident at work gets to go home safe that night instead,” she explained, “and their family doesn’t have to worry about losing them because we have made their workplace safer. That, to me, is the most rewarding thing. I know I’m making a difference.”

By extension, her work in safety assurance provides a trickle-down effect on workplace satisfaction. “Another thing that happens when you make a place safer is that the employees become happier,” she said, “and they get a feeling that their place of employment cares about them. I like seeing that.”

A Safety Career Built on Lifelong Learning

Looking toward the future, Eck is certain about her place in the safety industry. After completing the PMOSH program, she plans to continue bolstering her knowledge about industry practices with additional safety and health courses, knowing that every piece of information is useful in the field. “Every program that I take is just a little bit more knowledge that I can take and apply to my job.” She has already almost completed the Safety and Health Management Certificate, and after doing so, she plans to begin working on the Industrial Safety and Health Certificate.

Having seen the benefits of classroom learning in the workplace, she wants to help pass along the knowledge that she has gained, perhaps even by teaching at Georgia Tech Professional Education (GTPE). “I want to share this wealth of information,” she said. “A lot of these classes at GTPE are given to other safety professionals that work for other smaller companies or OSHA, and they can take this information and share it in the same way that I am.”

Written By Rachel Meyer, GTPE

Safety Tips: Avoid Injury from Electrical Hazards in the Workplace

Woman in Safety gear with safety checklist

During National Electrical Safety Month in May, the Electrical Safety Foundation International (ESFI) is bringing awareness to some of the main electrical risks, including shock and arc flash, resulting from contact with live components and working on abandoned, de-energized, or disconnected equipment. These hazards can lead to severe injury, burns, and even death.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were 126 fatal electrical injuries in 2020. Even though this is a decrease of 24% from 2019, 44% of those happened in the construction industry and “using or operating tools and machinery” accounted for 22% of electrical fatalities.*

These hazards apply to many companies that the Georgia Tech Safety, Health, and Environmental Services group works with on a regular basis. So we’ve put together several tips below in order to help reduce electrically related fatalities, injuries, and property loss in the workplace:

  • Always look up – Power lines are the leading cause of electrical fatalities on construction sites. Always stay at least 10-feet away from any overhead lines.
  • Be proactive – Implement safe work practices and regularly inspect electrical equipment by doing an incident energy analysis. Conduct arc flash studies to gather information and know what is coming into your facility from a utility standpoint.
  • Use protective devices – A ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) is an electrical safety device that is designed to protect people from electrocution. Properly using a GFCI at the receptacle or breaker panel can trip the circuit breaker within milliseconds to prevent electrical shock.
  • Have a plan – Our experts can provide guidance and resources so that you can create an Electrical Safety Program. Learn more about the other aspects of our OSHA 21 (d) Consultation Program, a no-cost, confidential service for small and medium sized businesses in Georgia.
  • Stay up to date on your training – Improve your safety awareness and gain an understanding of which OSHA standards apply to electrical hazards and how to correct them. Register for our upcoming courses OSHA 3095: Electrical Standards and NFPA 70E: Standard for Electrical Safety in the Workplace, which can be taken together and will count towards completion of the Facilities Maintenance Safety Certificate.
  • Select and Wear your PPE properly – This is your last line of defense in the event of a momentary electric arc, flash fire, or energized equipment exposure. Regular clothes will continue to burn, which can cause severe injury. Wear the right equipment at all times, as you never know when an incident might occur.
  • Test before you touch – Simply turning off the power is not enough, as hazards may still exist. Make sure a qualified person tests the circuit using a verified device to identify potential dangers and avoid injury. If possible, never work on live circuits. Equipment should be put in a safe electrical work condition.

“By regularly practicing good safety habits, you can avoid potential hazards and injuries caused by negligence, create a safe workplace, and arm employees with the tools they need to return home safely”, said Thomas Dean, safety consultant and resident electrical expert.

Visit the Safety, Health, and Environmental Services page for more information on how we can help you reduce workplace injuries through focus-based and comprehensive assistance.

 

*ESFI.org – https://www.esfi.org/workplace-fatalities-and-injuries-2003-2020/

Learner, Leader, and Inspirer in Workplace Safety

This is a guest post from our partner Georgia Tech Professional Education (GTPE).

Carlos Alvarado shares his path in workplace safety and how he inspires the next generation

When Carlos Alvarado started his safety career, he never could have imagined how integral a commitment to professional education could be in expanding his ability to keep people safe and inspire the next generation of other professionals in his field.

Beginnings in Health and Safety

Before becoming the safety director at Hemma Concrete, Alvarado’s journey to advance in the safety and health profession was not a simple process. He understood that to establish credibility and expand his knowledge, he would need to invest in additional credentials and education. “I know many people who have tons of experience on a resume but no industry certifications,” he said. “You really have to explain what sets you apart from the competition.”

Early in his career, Alvarado recalled how difficult it was to take classes and work full-time. “I remember that I would have to take classes during the day and work at night. However, I’m a hard worker, and it was a balancing act.” He knew that a supportive team that embraced professional development would be key to his career growth. Now, as a manager, he aims to do the same for his staff.

Applying Skills in the Workplace

Continuing education has been instrumental in him achieving his professional goals. “I chose Georgia Tech because many people in my industry told me how great it was. Also, there is no secret that it is a reputable university that many employers will recognize on a resume,” he stated.

Alvarado was motivated to complete safety and health courses and certificates with Georgia Tech Professional Education (GTPE) because he felt that it would better his career and keep pace with emerging trends within the industry. He also liked that the instructors were accomplished practitioners who understood the current climate of the profession. For example, Pam Fisher, an instructor in Advanced Safety Management was influential in helping him “sell” safety as a concept — not only as policies and regulations — to various stakeholders. “People often associate occupational safety with rules and regulations. It is so much more than that.”

Alvarado enjoys seeing the bigger picture of how the curriculum in the classroom connects and informs his industry. He explained how his time in the program helped him properly prevent and manage incidents and how to properly document them. While he strives to avoid any injury or accident, he believes that these incidents serve as a lesson and a reminder to continually assess and review their organizational safety practices and regularly educate all employees on how to keep themselves safe. “The excavation, scaffolding, OSHA 500 Trainer Course, and management classes have helped me as a director to ensure safety in a variety of contexts,” he explained.

Hemma Concrete and Kids’ Chance

Alvarado recalled how his father worked in construction and has seen firsthand the traumatic impact of work-related losses on families. He saw the Georgia Safety, Health and Environmental Conference and annual silent auction to benefit Kids’ Chance of Georgia as an opportunity to help affected families while developing the next generation of safety and health professionals. For years, Georgia Tech’s OSHA Training Institute Education Center (OTIEC) within GTPE, has contributed a full certificate in either construction or general industry safety and health to benefit Kids’ Chance, a nonprofit that provides financial scholarships to children of seriously or fatally injured workers.

“It’s incredibly meaningful to know that through a Kids’ Chance scholarship, a child — who has had so much stolen from them due to the devastating emotional and financial impact a workplace injury or fatality had on their family – can be supported and hopeful about their future…and that the student recipient of our Safety & Health Certificate Program will go on to pursue prevention strategies for workplace hazards and save lives. I’m proud for us to be a part of someone’s story.” said Hilarie Warren, director of OTIEC.

After placing the winning bid for the certificate program, Alvarado gifted it to one of his employees, a current learner in the OSHA program. “Winning was bigger than me,” he recalled. “I got to contribute to a family that has sustained a loss and professionally develop one of my team members.”

During the silent auction, he was determined to place the winning bid for the certificate. “I remember calling the owner of my company and explaining the value of this certificate to affected families and Hemma. He fully supported my decision and told me to bid what I needed to win.”

Looking Ahead

Over the course of his career, Alvarado has amassed over 40 safety and health certifications. Hemma Concrete, under his leadership over occupational health and safety, has received five safety awards from the American Society of Concrete Contractors (ASCC); Zero Lost Time, Improvement, and Recognition Awards; and the prestigious W. Burr Bennett Award for Safety Excellence, for which only 10% of all contractors in the ASCC are invited to apply. These awards are a testament to Hemma’s commitment to occupational health and safety and staying abreast of emerging trends. And he looks forward to taking additional professional education courses and certificates.

Women in Construction: The Value of Mentorship

This is a guest post from our partner Georgia Tech Professional Education (GTPE).

Picture of woman in construction safety attire

How two female health and safety professionals used mentorship to hone their skills and abilities in a male-dominated profession

The Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) field, like many STEM-based fields, is an energy-intensive industry that requires quick decision-making, continuous problem-solving, and tireless people-pleasing. Without regular intellectual and emotional support from colleagues and coworkers, it’s easy to lose focus and purpose.

For women, who comprise a minority of those in the industry, mutual support for one another is all the more important — and challenging — to find. When Julie Brown, safety manager for Choate Construction in Atlanta, met Pam Fisher, course director for the OSHA Training Institute Education Center and adjunct faculty member for Georgia Tech Research Institute (GTRI), on a construction project nearly six years ago, she immediately noticed and admired Pam’s confidence and assertiveness — qualities she knew were essential for women to thrive in such a competitive industry.

“I remember thinking to myself, ‘This lady is a firecracker,’” recalled Julie. “She doesn’t give these guys any slack. I want to be like that.”

Julie, having worked in medicine for 25 years prior, had transitioned into the safety and health field. While she was equipped with a unique set of skills and knowledge about safety practices, this new project was dense and difficult, with many barriers and moving parts. It was also one of the first project sites where there was a female safety professional.

“At the time, Pam was one of the only ones on site regularly who was female, and she had such a presence,” said Julie. “She took command, and she didn’t give them any slack. And that’s sometimes what you have to do.”

Pam also had experience as a registered nurse, but she had spent much more time in the safety field. Over time, she had learned how to navigate the industry, but she explained that the “confidence” needed for success often is more about appearance than what you are feeling.

“People tell me, you always come across so strong and confident,” she described. “But I never think that I am.”

Both Pam and Julie have learned that your outward appearance is directly related to your survival in the industry — fear, timidness, and deference won’t get you very far. That’s why it’s important to find a support system of friends, especially females, to rely on for advice and encouragement.

Ever since their first meeting, Pam and Julie have become good friends, and their mentorship has supported both of them in different ways. Julie has relied on Pam for advice about the industry and how to navigate it as a female, while Pam has been inspired by Julie’s enthusiasm and the way that she and other women like her have continued to push beyond their limits. “So many times,” Pam explained, “These young women have surprised me because they will say, ‘I’m going to do this.’ And I would think to myself, ‘That will never work.’ But then they make it happen.”

Julie credits these achievements in a large part to Pam, saying that she and other women like her would not have the ability to keep pushing forward were it not for the way that Pam and other female mentors have pioneered before them. “If we didn’t have the base knowledge coming from mentors like Pam, we wouldn’t be able to go as far as we have gone,” Julie said.

Even though they don’t work on the same project site anymore, Pam and Julie still find time to connect with each other to offer support and guidance. Due to their busy work schedules, they don’t have a regular meeting time; however, they both feel that they can call each other at any time. “I have never doubted that I could call Pam at any point with a question, and she can do the same with me,” Julie said.

Additionally, Pam emphasized the value of participating in formal or informal professional support groups. Committing to a group with a regularly scheduled meeting time keeps you accountable to balance working with learning. Pam referenced Georgia Tech Professional Education as an excellent resource for such learning accountability. Through its professional education programs, Georgia Tech provides a valuable community with opportunities for networking and mentoring. “One important reason for folks to come to Georgia Tech is not just to get training,” Pam explained, “but also for the networking and the mentoring relationship.”

Picture of instructor

Julie experienced this community firsthand when she participated in and completed the Construction Safety and Health certificate program at GTPE in 2021. She was motivated to enroll in the program because she had discovered her passion for occupational safety and health and wanted to continue developing her knowledge and skills. “I found that this is what I love to do,” she said. “When you get a passion for something, you pursue it.”

Julie loved her learning experience at GTPE and appreciated its affordability and practicality. The short-term courses were manageable and consistent, and the instructors helped her understand new perspectives and aspects of the industry that she had never considered before. Now, Julie is even more enthusiastic about continuing her professional learning journey. “I want to be a lifetime learner,” she said.

When Pam began her career in the safety and health industry, there were no other women there with her. Now, even though more women have entered the field, it’s still easy to feel alone and unsupported. There are still barriers for women in occupational safety, and they need to stick together to build each other up and push each other forward. “We need each other, and we need support,” Pam said.

Mentorships like Julie’s and Pam’s are vital for women to help each other thrive in the workplace. “A mentor to me is someone who has not only the knowledge but the wisdom to guide you,” Julie said. “They give you strong reassurance and confidence in the decisions you’ve made.”

Click here to read more career highlights, advice, and stories from the GTPE women shaking up the STEM industry.