In Demand and Ready for Work
The Safety and Occupational Health major prepares students for a variety of occupational safety and health program management positions in the private and public sector. Graduates have the capacity to pursue graduate study, participate in applied research, or transition directly into careers in loss control, risk management, organizational safety, and consulting.
Matt Norton, BS, 2012
What this program will offer you is job security, placement, connections to the outside workforce. The Keene State Safety Program offers diverse amounts of knowledge that encompasses all aspects of safety … you can go anywhere with this degree.
- Matt Norton, Safety Studies major
Brian Fons, BS, '95
I’m using everything I studied at Keene State – environmental science and geology and safety. Safety studies majors had to take Intro to Management along with a business class, and both of those have come in very handy. There’s no training manual for starting your own business.
- Brian Fons, ‘95, Safety Studies
Heather Luhrs, BS, 2013
Heather is the Northeast Regional Environmental Health and Safety (EHS) Coordinator for International Paper. She calls it a “dream job” – regularly traveling from Maine to Pennsylvania, where she lives. Working with 22 factories where cardboard boxes are made, she helps them comply with company and OSHA standards. She also trains supervisors and team members on safety policies.
Although the Merrimack, New Hampshire native enjoyed her classes in Keene, Heather said, “my internship excited me the most and really got me more involved in my studies. Actually being out in the field and seeing what an EHS position may entail, allows you to start considering what industries you would or would not be interested in. After doing my internship at International Paper, I was able to understand the class material more and how it would apply to a potential career. It also got me used to idea of living pretty far away from my hometown, and I love it.
“I would absolutely recommend this major to anyone with an interest in the subject. The likelihood of getting a job right out of school with this degree is huge. There will always be a need for EHS professionals and the job opportunities are everywhere!”
William Moran, MS candidate 2014
William “Bill” Moran, is a second-year graduate student, working on his Masters degree in Safety and Occupational Health and Applied Science. He is already working in a leadership position as Director of Health and Safety for Northeast Lighting Recycling in East Windsor, Connecticut. Bill says the field chose him, by virtue of interests he pursued. A volunteer firefighter from a young age, Bill became a US Marine combat engineer and company medic, always trying to keep dangerous situations from causing harm.
When he arrived at Keene State as an undergraduate, following his military service, he was surprised at “ how intense and realistic the classroom scenarios were – like those I dealt with and continue to deal with on a daily basis. The written and hands-on projects along with the professors’ and students’ workplace experience were priceless.”
"I get excited about helping to make changes that will make a difference in the lives of everyday people who simply go to work to provide for their families. I enjoy being able give them the knowledge and skills through education and training to make sure they all go home to their loved ones at the end of the day the way they came in to work.”
Bill wants his graduate studies to give him a deeper understanding of the field. He sees training and educating employees and managers as a way of “paying it forward, and creating safer work environments.” And, although he recommends the field for “anyone who wants to make a real difference in peoples’ lives,” he sees most of the rewards through a sense of personal satisfaction. He has won awards for keeping employees safe, and they have thanked him, which is enough. After all, the hazards and injuries they avoid are enough proof of his effectiveness.
David Kiser '02 M '13
When David Kiser ’02 M’13 learned, shortly into his tenure as an Environmental, Safety, and Health Engineer at Hypertherm Inc., that the company was hiring an onsite nurse, he was a bit surprised. While lacerations and repetitive motion injuries could crop up among the machinists and assemblers at the large-scale manufacturer of plasma cutting machines (high-speed, high-precision torches that slice through metal), full-time nursing services seemed a disproportionate response for handling such injuries.
“Little did I know that we were going to embark on a wellness program initiative that was much bigger than I had envisioned at the time,” says Kiser, who majored in safety and occupational health applied sciences as well as product design and development. He was so impressed with Hypertherm’s wellness initiative, in fact, that when he returned to Keene State for a master’s degree in safety, he wrote a paper about it for a class taught by Associate Professor David May.
“The company really does care for and provide for the wellbeing of its employees,” he wrote in the paper. Employee welfare features prominently in the firm’s mission statement, which is to “provide customers with the best high-temperature metal cutting products and services in the world and to provide for the development and well-being of our associates.”
Hypertherm is an employee-owned business with about 1,000 workers based in New Hampshire’s Upper Valley and another 400 in other parts of the country and the world. Among its wellness offerings is free treatment at an on-site clinic called the HAWC (Hypertherm Associate Wellness Center). The HAWC is staffed 40 hours a week by either a physician or a physician assistant (PA) who are provided through a contract with Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center. Workers are encouraged to visit the clinic for any health issue, not just those related to their jobs. In 2015, Hypertherm also began offering primary care to employees and to their families through the HAWC.
In 2011, Hypertherm hired a dedicated Wellness Program manager, Patti Friedman. Together with the HAWC, Patti helps to coordinate other wellness programs, such as sports leagues, fitness classes, healthy food options in the cafeteria, tobacco cessation programs, and regular screenings for blood sugar, blood pressure, cholesterol, and the like. The company measures the impact of all of these programs by keeping track of each worker’s “vitality age,” a number that’s arrived at via the health screenings and surveys. Over the last three to four years, the average vitality age at Hypertherm has dropped by several years. Close to 50 workers have stopped using tobacco. Workers Compensation claims have dropped and more than 100 participants in a weight loss program lost a collective 1,932 pounds.
Kiser, who is responsible for OSHA compliance and worker safety as well as environmental compliance, takes advantage of the wellness offerings, participating in a golf league, ski team, and Hypertherm’s community garden. His wife, Jennifer, is a physical therapist, so wellness is a family affair. The couple’s son, James Michael, was born in September. Hypertherm’s wellness initiative makes sense not just for employees but for the company as well, Kiser notes. Before embarking on it, the management team took a long look at the value of the investment in terms of employee retention, reduction in absenteeism, and productivity. “The decision was that, yes, not only is it the right thing to do for our people, but it’s also the right thing to do for the company,” he says.