Occupational Safety & Health Students Learn Through Experience
December 10, 2020
Students in the GVSU Occupational Safety & Health (OSH) program had ample opportunities for experiential learning this semester through completion of a variety of hands-on lab activities and a visit to the John Ball Zoo hosted by the West Michigan American Society of Safety Professionals (ASSP) Chapter.
OSH students learned about swimming pool hygiene by visiting the Pool Mechanical Room in the GVSU Allendale Fieldhouse. They conducted a mock confined space entry using a storm drain outside of the L.V. Eberhard Center, ensuring replacement of contaminated air with fresh air and proper fitting of safety gear. They practiced lockout procedures that protect employees from the unexpected energization of equipment during repairs, and they also tested the HVAC systems in a classroom to determine ventilation levels of the air. During their visit to the John Ball Zoo, the students learned about emergency preparedness plans, what to do if an animal escapes, and the overall safety of the zoo and its guests.
"The hands-on aspect of the Occupational Safety & Health Program at GVSU is one of its' best features," said Dr. Dave Huizen, Director of the OSH Program. "Students retain critical information on employee health and safety because they have been engaged in lab activities that provide them with real-world experience they will use when they graduate and enter the workforce."
OSH professor, Derek McCormick, concurs. "As a graduate from this program, and former Safety Manager, I have recognized the importance of providing as many hands-on opportunities as feasible towards preparing our students to feel confident in entering the workforce. Many of the activities completed during the OSH program courses transition directly into the workplace."
The experiential learning aspect of the program is a draw for students looking for opportunities to apply their learning. "One part of the Occupational Safety and Health program here at Grand Valley that I have really enjoyed is the hands-on component. I have never been the biggest fan of 'nose in a book' schooling and I find that actually getting to participate in the labs helps to solidify the content we talk about in class," said OSH student, Sam Menzie. "The labs have also made me feel much more comfortable with the tests and programs I will be expected to complete as I look at finding an internship and then moving on to a career in safety."
Zach Mikulec, an OSH student who serves as the lab assistant for the OSH 316 course, enjoys his role because "it is one of the classes where students learn and develop skills that will help them throughout their OSH career."
"Being exposed to equipment early on helped me substantially during my internship with already knowing how to sample for noise, take air samples, and perform different types of respirator fit tests," said Zach. The OSH program "offers students a chance to develop a broad range of skill sets, such as learning how to operate heat stress monitors, how to perform a confined space entry, and how to find and select different types of personal protective equipment based on the hazards present."
The GVSU OSH Program is one of only two ABET accredited OSH programs in the state of Michigan. These experiential learning opportunities are a critical component that support program accreditation.