COM program prepares students for safety field

Safety, hygiene and health are issues often overlooked – until something goes wrong.

A College of the Mainland program prepares students for a successful career of preventing incidents and saving lives.

“Safety is in every walk of life – every company, every position, whether on land, under the earth or on the sea,” said E.C. “Bear” Handwerk, associate professor of Occupational Safety and Health Technology Program at COM. “Graduates … go worldwide. The sky’s the limit.”
 
Daryl Bladt is one graduate entering a growing field. With a bachelor’s in business administration, Bladt earned the Occupational Safety and Health Technology Certificate at COM to change careers.

“(Instructors) really do care and it showed,” said Bladt. “Even today if I have a question, I can shoot an email to (instructors) and they answer back.”
 
Now he works as ChemCare health and safety specialist for Univar Inc., a distributor of industrial and specialty chemicals.
 
“I enjoy my job,” said Daryl Bladt, “When I started here, there was no safety program at all. I wrote a program. I’ve watched team members learn and grow. My safety specialist is now attending COM. He is really benefiting from it.”
 
His work has paid off. ChemCare, the waste management service from Univar, was recently named winner of the 2014 Contractor Safety Excellence Award by the Houston Business Roundtable and the Houston Area Safety Council.

While Bladt chose to change careers, Ben Breedlove had nearly a decade of experience as a safety coordinator but sought further credentials. He returned to college after 30 years to earn the Occupational Safety and Health Technology Certificate.
 
“After taking courses, my responsibilities grew,” said Breedlove. “My job is to make sure OSHA requirements are met by facilities, investigate any near-misses and (conduct) safety training.”
 
As safety coordinator for Alfred Conhagen Inc., he oversees three facilities in Texas, California and Louisiana. His company’s Texas facility has twice received recognition from the On-site Consultation Program's Safety and Health Achievement Recognition Program (SHARP) for operating an exemplary injury and illness prevention program.
  
Whether working as a safety specialist or a regulation officer for state or federal agencies, COM graduates enter the field at an opportune time.
 
“Most of my generation, the Baby Boomers, are retiring,” explained Handwerk.
“We’re training future leaders. If somebody wants to get in the field, we’ll help them achieve the goals they set for themselves.”
 
The certificate program is ideal for those who want to enter the field quickly. The two-year degree builds on the certificate and is transferable to universities.
 
The field is both essential and rewarding. Handwerk draws upon his 40 years of experience in the health and safety field with government agencies, including NASA, when teaching.
 
“If you make a mistake, somebody can die. There are about 4,000 workers killed per year (according to OSHA), and these deaths are preventable,” said Handwerk. “I think of it as a noble field because you’re preventing injuries and saving lives. It’s proactive and not reactive.”

For information about the COM Occupational Safety and Health Technology Program, visit www.com.edu/osht or call 409-933-8242.
 

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