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Safety students show professionalism, promise

May 15, 2012
Earl Hansen

Earl Hansen

Safety industry professional and blogger Joanell Powers recently wrote about her encounter with the NIU chapter of the American Society of Safety Engineers.

In the blog post titled “Carrying the Torch for the Safety Profession,” Powers mentions how most young professionals feel as though the “over-forty” work force is outdated and stands in the way of their success.

Powers’ experience with the NIU group was the opposite.

She expressed not only how respectful the NIU students were, but also what a high quality the Department of Technology program has. Powers also mentioned how relieved she was for the future of the safety profession after watching NIU students present their work study papers.

“The NIU Environmental Health and Safety program is widely known in the state and region for producing well rounded safety professionals,” said Cliff Mirman, professor and chair of the department. “Students graduate from the program with both the industrial experience and the background knowledge needed to tackle problems.”

Part of the reason for NIU’s safety success is thanks to Earl Hansen, associate professor of technology. Hansen, who joined NIU in August of 1980, is retiring after 32 years with the university.

Safety is an important aspect of technology, Hansen said. “Students of technology need to understand how human factors, manufacturing concepts, industrial hygiene issues and ergonomics affect the everyday worker.”

A veteran of the safety industry, Hansen has watched it change over the years.

“I think it’s better organized from a professional perspective through the American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE) and the National Safety Council (NSC),” he said. The ASSE and the NSC help to regulate the safety industry and train safety professionals according to a national standard.

“Dr. Hansen has brought the Department of Technology’s Environmental Health and Safety program to the level which it is at currently,” Mirman said. “One way to gauge the success of Dr. Hansen is to look at the success of the program graduates.  They typically have multiple employment offers prior to graduation.”

“The strength of our program lies in the successes of our alumni,” Hansen said. “They are hard-working, professional and interested in furthering the safety program at NIU.  The individual student is the most important aspect of this academic program.”

Logo of the National Safety Education CenterIn addition to a top-notch safety program, NIU also houses one of 24 Occupation Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) training centers in the country. The National Safety Education Center (NSEC) offers approved OSHA training courses. This is another way that NIU sets its safety program apart from other universities.

“Our classes are taught by industry leaders, many who are prior OSHA Compliance Officers, which means that our students learn directly from the very people who influence OSHA,” said Missy Gillis, new director of external programming for the NSEC. “We offer ‘Train the Trainer’ courses, and can also customize courses to meet industry needs, and teach those courses on site.”

For Hansen, the future of the safety industry is bright.

“I believe all the changes are positive,” he said. “Based on the fact that I send out roughly 400 job announcements a month to alumni and students, and that the constant request for interns continues to grow, I think the future will be good.”