Georgia Tech Professional Education has awarded occupational safety and health certificates to 18 employees at Robins Air Force Base in Warner Robins, Ga., extending Georgia Tech’s relationship with the U.S. Air Force.
The Robins employees completed a series of courses to earn the professional certificates, which were awarded in late February 2013.
Georgia Tech Professional Education partnered with Georgia Tech Research Institute, the university’s applied research arm, to offer the training at Robins. For more than 30 years, Georgia Tech’s occupational safety and health program has helped keep workers safe, growing to offer 43 short courses, eight professional certificates and customized training.
“We are proud to offer our depth of experience and knowledge of OSHA regulations in this partnership with Robins Air Force Base. By learning onsite, the employees have received certificates from a major engineering school recognized nationally and internationally,” said Daniel J. Ortiz, M.P.H., C.S.P., manager of GTRI’s Occupational Safety and Health Program Office.
The training program saved the base $237,000 in travel and other costs and resulted in new safety programs implemented across the facility, according to David Decker with the 78th Air Base Wing Safety Office at Robins. The 78th Air Base Wing, OSHA and the American Federation of Government Employees Local 987 were essential to Georgia Tech Professional Education’s ability to provide the training.
“This is a critical partnership,” said Brig. Gen. Cedric George, commander of the Warner Robins Air Logistics Complex. “I know it wasn’t easy. Georgia Tech doesn’t do easy.”
In 2011, Robins reached out to GTRI professionals, who are Georgia Tech Professional Education instructors, for assistance with occupational safety and health. Safety is a priority at the installation, which has more than 20,000 civilian and military personnel in a variety of careers.
Georgia Tech Professional Education instructors worked with senior leadership from the 78th Air Base wing and from the Warner Robins Air Logistics Complex (WR-ALC), which provides depot level maintenance for USAF aircraft and systems.
Beginning with two courses in occupational safety and health, Georgia Tech Professional Education and GTRI formed a relationship with Robins around the need to develop and implement a safety management system. An additional nine courses, including the OSHA Guide to Industrial Hygiene and Machinery and Machine Guarding Standards, were taught on base, helping employees earn the certificates.
The courses included classroom lectures and hands-on training. The instructors incorporated challenges Robins employees faced into the class material.
“We were able to use examples based on our experience at Robins,” said James B. Howry, senior research associate at GTRI’s Electronic Systems Laboratory. “We integrated our subject matter expertise as we understood their challenges.”
The savings to the taxpayer was “tremendous,” said Roger Hayes, chief of WR-ALC Safety, who leads a team of 30 safety professionals overseeing over 16,000 workers. He estimates he was able to spend about $4,000 on one course for 20 employees, instead of paying $1,500 per employee to attend a course away from the base.
“The relationship with Robins Air Force Base is a great example of how Georgia Tech Professional Education can meet an organization’s specific needs and provide affordable training by bringing courses to worksites,” said Myrtle I. Turner, Ph.D., M.P.H., C.E.T., director of Georgia Tech’s OSHA Training Institute Education Center, which is one of four original centers across the U.S.
During the February ceremony at Robins, 17 employees were awarded an Industrial Safety and Health Certificate, and one individual received a Construction Safety and Health Certificate.
“Robins Air Force Base respected and identified with the professional credentials that come with a certificate from Georgia Tech,” Howry added.
The program also offered the opportunity to further strengthen safety education, while continuing to improve work processes and assist employees.
“It’s been awesome,” said Lt. Col. Nate Tart, of the 78th Air Base Wing. “With such a diverse group of people in the course, it helped make it a better experience. Some of us have a flight safety background, and it was good to hear the industrial safety perspective.”
Having the opportunity to earn a professional certificate from a prestigious university shows an employer’s dedication and commitment to safety and the workforce, said Robert Tidwell, 402nd Commodities Maintenance Group aircraft sheet metal mechanic and an American Federation of Government Employees Local 987 safety representative.
“When I’m out in the workforce, I can offer insight and help resolve safety concerns or put out safety issues that will potentially keep people from getting hurt,” he said. “Our ultimate goal is safety for our workforce.”