Feb. 28, 2006
By Natalia Lavric
What did you do at work today? If you're an Environmental Health and Safety student, you might have worked in a radiation lab, helped design the department newsletter or updated the website. You might have even tested the level of lead in paint using a $15,000 instrument that your employer has trusted you to use.
Environmental Health and Safety (EHS) students work closely with staff mentors and are employed through PACE, Work Study, or at an hourly rate. "They're getting experience that you just won't get in a classroom," said Chuck Hart, director of EHS, "and we believe that student employment is key for student engagement."
Students' responsibilities typically change from year to year to give them a well-rounded, comprehensive look at what it's like to work in several areas. For example, students may work in a laboratory setting one year and later move out into field testing around the Athens area.
Although most students who work at EHS study in the College of Health Sciences, they also study computer science, journalism, visual communication, science and geography. This year, 13 students work with the department and gain professional, hands-on experience.
Program graduates work across the country in the field, but others stay close to home. Former EHS student Chris Kolbash recently landed a position as a laboratory safety coordinator for the university. Now, he is pursuing a master's degree in public health and will be part of the first class in the program to graduate.
Kolbash worked as a laboratory safety technician his senior year of undergraduate studies. "I helped Chuck Hart implement a new laboratory safety audit system where EHS would perform safety inspections of laboratories across campus, generate inspection reports, and help principal investigators correct the safety issues found in their labs," he said.
Kolbash's experience with the program allowed him to explore sampling methods and field training before he used them in class. "Working for EHS gives you the ability to gain health and safety experience while working around your class schedule," he explained. "Plus, you are working for, and learning from, individuals who have years of experience and knowledge to share with you."
The department works in numerous ways to serve the Ohio University community -- according to the department's Web site, the group coordinates most aspects of environmental and risk management and safety regulations for the campus.
"We've been doing this for decades," Hart continued. "The program began in 1961, and we were one of the first in the nation."
The group's work has not gone unnoticed. Environmental Health and Safety was honored with two awards at the Campus Safety, Health and Environmental Management Association Conference last summer in Philadelphia. Additionally, the group was recognized with the Award of Honor, the highest distinction given to total campus EHS programs, in Toronto, Canada, in 2002.
EHS specializes in radiation safety, biosafety, occupational health and safety and hazardous materials management. Additionally, the department offers training for staff members and students throughout the academic year.
"Working for EHS provides a unique perspective of the campus facilities and employees that you don't normally see just walking to and from class," Kolbash said.
Students interested in the Environmental Health and Safety program can contact Training and Communication Coordinator Julie Wilson at email@example.com or call (740) 593-1666.
Natalia Lavric is a student writer with University Communications and Marketing.