ASSE: Students of Safety See Beyond Troubled Economy, Express Optimism

Many of the students reflecting on the future of the safety profession during the American Society of Safety Engineers' Future Safety Leaders Conference held recently in Louisville, Ky., are optimistic about the future of the occupational safety, health and environmental profession and see opportunities in construction, manufacturing, and the 'green' movement despite the troubled economy. In addition, many note their school programs' growth in popularity.

"I still see an increase in opportunities for safety professionals and the need for more SH&E professionals in the renewable energy and bio-fuel industries in the next 10 years," said Jonathon Ludrick, a senior studying occupational safety and health at Southeastern Oklahoma State University and member of the ASSE Southeastern OSU Student Chapter. "I also think ergonomics is one area that is becoming more popular to study, as well as worker's compensation issues and legal liability. Companies can save money by taking precautions before incidents happen, but most importantly lives can be saved."

SH&E student attendees commented on areas of safety they are studying, which include ergonomics, construction, manufacturing, industrial hygiene, and maritime standards and regulations. To inform students of current trends in the SH&E profession, the Board of Certified Safety Professionals Executive Director Roger L. Brauer, Ph.D., CSP, PE, noted during his breakout session titled "Achieving Success in a Safety Career" that the quality of safety in the construction industry is improving and the safety profession in this field is growing. He provided students with data from the BCSP January 2008 survey of Certified Safety Professionals showing that most CSPs were employed in manufacturing followed by insurance/finance.

"I think there are increasing opportunities in every area of safety," said Kendra Potsubay, a safety and environmental management senior at Slippery Rock University in Pennsylvania and ASSE SRU Student Chapter member. "Overall, I think the profession is growing and the current economy will probably not cause a big change in the SH&E profession because workplace safety is a key component in many companies. Some companies may see a decline in safety personnel but not too much; after all, there are still workplace safety standards that are in place and need to be followed."

ASSE SRU Student Chapter Vice President Natasha Banks also sees an increase in students pursuing the occupational SH&E profession. A current senior studying health, safety and environmental management, Banks said, "I see our major and department growing at Slippery Rock University. We have five professors in the program, and I can definitely see the need for more. I remember when the program had around 30 students; now it is more like 85 - 100. The program is running out of space."

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