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Students learn workplace safety from Operating Staff

October 11, 2017

When faculty and staff in NIU’s Industrial Management and Technology program look for hands-on experiences and mentors in the field, they don’t have to look far. The program – which offers a concentration in environmental safety and health – has built a strong, mutually beneficial relationship with departments across campus whose workers regularly encounter the issues they teach about in their classrooms.

Engineering Technology professors William Mills and Theodore Hogan have worked to amass the network of more than 100 NIU employees who have provided experiential learning, tours, projects and mentoring for their students.

“We are especially thankful to Scott Mooberry, director of the NIU Environmental Health and Safety Office, because he has facilitated all of the connections between Facilities Management & Campus Services, and is currently helping us establish relationships with the other administrative services that ensure our campus is a great place to learn,” Hogan said.

Recent examples of these collaborations include students shadowing NIU shop employees to learn about their work and then preparing and delivering shop-specific training. Another class in the program learned about fall protection equipment and practices from a supervisor working in the Convocation Center catwalks. Another class prepared drafts of Chemical Hazard Training for Building Services workers. Students have also done ergonomic studies, chemical exposure measurements and noise measurements across the campus.

This semester, students are visiting the NIU East Chilled Water Plant and are doing projects on environmental sustainability and waste management reviews across many departments on campus. Other students will partner with campus employees in assigned shops or departments on campus to come up with safety plans for specific aspects of their job and will present those in teams to the class.
The Industrial Management and Technology program offers a concentration in Environmental Safety and Health. Students majoring in public health, energy and environmental technology, and environmental studies also take classes in the program.

“The employees teach the students about their work and related hazards and controls,” Hogan said. “The students make chemical and noise exposure measurements, conduct safety surveys and learn how to deliver effective safety training.”

Hogan said an important part of the experience is that students learn how to partner with workers to effectively implement safety, instead of dictating requirements.

“All of these experiences have been an important factor in students getting jobs after graduation,” Hogan said, adding graduates of the safety program are in high demand, with extensive recruiting from alumni. “It’s a rewarding job, one that helps others.”

Jason Porter is an alumnus of the program who now works as a safety specialist at Nestle Professional in Chicago, IL. He said he chose the major because he liked being involved in hands-on activities in an industrial environment.

“I grew up fixing things with my grandfather and father so that played a huge part in my decision,” he said.

Porter said that for him, the mentoring aspect of the program was critical.

“They instructed their classes with real-life experiences from their own careers in the occupational health and safety field and that was key,” he said. “They knew the obstacles that a safety professional would go through, so they taught us how to overcome those.”

Another program alum, Timi Adeboje, currently works as a production supervisor at a Nestle USA plant in Itasca, IL. He said Hogan’s teaching style, wide professional network and seemingly endless scope of resources helped prepare him for his current role. Adeboje said he appreciated the exposure to safety experts and professionals from different industries.

“From OSHA trainers to ergonomic specialists to experienced safety managers, we met them all and they provided invaluable professional insight that married the concepts covered in class,” he said. “Our learning was very much experiential, as we would take class visits to sites and practice our tools from lessons to build and connect knowledge.”SaveSaveSaveSave