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.

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

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.