University of Wisconsin-Whitewater Audit & Review
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University of Wisconsin-Whitewater Audit & Review

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University of Wisconsin-Whitewater Audit & Review Department of Occupational and Environmental Safety & Health Graduate Program: Master of Science in Occupational Safety 2000-2004 Program Highlights The period under review was marked by significant changes in the Department of Occupational and Environmental Safety & Health (OESH) and its programs. These changes encompassed the Department’s orientation and designation, the composition of its student and faculty bodies, and its curricula. The Department changed its name from Department of Safety Studies to Department of Occupational and Environmental Safety & Health. The new name better conveys the Department's current areas of expertise (i.e., Occupational Safety and Health) and the directions where we see ourselves expanding our activities in the future (i.e., Environmental Safety and Industrial Hygiene). The new designation better identifies to potential students the Department's vocation and gives a clear direction to our efforts. The Master’s Program in Occupational Safety has traditionally attracted a mature student population with previous education and professional experience in the field. This primarily non-traditional student would typically enroll in one or two courses per semester resulting in fairly extended time required for graduation. More recently, however, significant changes in the student body have been observed. In addition to a large growth in its size, an increased ...

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University of Wisconsin-Whitewater Audit & Review Department of Occupational and Environmental Safety & Health Graduate Program: Master of Science in Occupational Safety 2000-2004  Program Highlights The period under review was marked by significant changes in the Department of Occupational and Environmental Safety & Health (OESH) and its programs. These changes encompassed the Department’s orientation and designation, the composition of its student and faculty bodies, and its curricula.  The Department changed its name from Department of Safety Studies to Department of Occupational and Environmental Safety & Health. The new name better conveys the Department's current areas of expertise (i.e., Occupational Safety and Health) and the directions where we see ourselves expanding our activities in the future (i.e., Environmental Safety and Industrial Hygiene). The new designation better identifies to potential students the Department's vocation and gives a clear direction to our efforts.  The Master’s Program in Occupational Safety has traditionally attracted a mature student population with previous education and professional experience in the field. This primarily non-traditional student would typically enroll in one or two courses per semester resulting in fairly extended time required for graduation. More recently, however, significant changes in the student body have been observed. In addition to a large growth in its size, an increased proportion of more traditional, full-time students, with diverse backgrounds and varied undergraduate education, now characterizes the student body. Many of these new students have recently concluded their undergraduate education and have little or no previous experience in occupational safety. The diversity in the student body grew in terms of age, gender, culture, ethnicity, nationality, education, and professional experience. This justifies the maintenance of a flexible curriculum and individualized advising. This growth may be attributed to the efforts by the Department to promote its graduate program while improving the qualifications of the faculty, coupled with a favorable job market in the OESH field.  Pre-requisites to the master’s program include a semester of college chemistry (Chem 102 – General Chemistry or equivalent), proficiency in statistics and in the fundamentals of OESH (SAFETY 380 Industrial Accident Prevention or equivalent). The Occupational Safety program requires the completion of 36 credits, with at least half of these credits in advanced courses (i.e. 700-level). The program requirements include a research component (6-9 credits) constituted by a mandatory research methods class, EDFOUND 740 – Techniques of Research, and by two alternatives for an individual research project. The first option (SAFETY 789 - Readings and Research in Safety) involves the development of an individual research project under the direction of a faculty member with additional support from a second faculty member. This is a grade-basis course where the student is expected to demonstrate understanding of the state of the art of a selected OESH topic, to identify a relevant gap in the existing knowledge and frame a research question and/or hypothesis, and finally to design a study to address this
 
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question. Many of these studies do not involve substantial data collection and analysis. The course carries a three-credit load and requires the students to take a comprehensive examination at the conclusion of their coursework. Students failing the exam are allowed to re-take it. The second option, SAFETY 799 – Thesis Research, isa six-credit pass/fail course, where the student works under the direction of a faculty advisor and also receives guidance from a committee made up by the advisor and two other faculty members. Expectations for Thesis Research are significantly higher, with most projects involving considerable data collection, analysis, and reflection. Students selecting Thesis Research are waived from the comprehensive examination.  During the fall 2000 an OESH faculty member offered the mandatory research methods class, EDFOUND 740 – Techniques of Research,in a special session dedicated to safety students. Although the session was very successful, the low enrollment at the time discouraged further offerings. With the sharp increase in the enrollments observed recently we are considering the possibility of offering a dedicated session again. The Department contemplated in the past the idea of making SAFETY 799 – Thesis Research mandatory. However, after taking into consideration that only a small minority of students opt for that alternative and how protracted some of these studies become, the Department decided to maintain the two alternatives.  The OESH program requires a field experience component, SAFETY 793 – Practicum (1-6 credits), which is commonly waived for students with professional experience in safety. The changed composition of the student body described above will result in an eventual increase in the number of students requiring field experience.  The Department has recently revised its graduate program curriculum with the purpose of simplifying and clarifying some of its aspects. These changes do not significantly alter the contents of the program but make it easier for students to “navigate” requirements and enhance academic advising as well. The proposal has been approved by the Department and is being submitted to the College and University curriculum committees in the Fall 04. Please refer to Appendix B for the current and proposed versions of the program description.  A Departmental Advisory Board has been convened to advise on curriculum and other long-term issues affecting the program and its graduates. This group consists of noteworthy professionals from academia, industry, and government. The Board has a rotating chairperson with a two-year mandate. The Advisory Board roster and the first two reports issued by the Board Chairperson can be found in the Appendix F.  The Department has successfully implemented a new certificate program in construction safety. This initiative was developed under the guidance of the Construction Safety Advisory Board, which consists of 16 members representing the Department faculty, the construction industry, federal regulatory agencies, and organized labor. The partners in this innovative project were involved not only in designing the curriculum and course content, but also participated directly in the delivery of the content. The certificate requirements include three construction safety courses. This initiative involved the
 
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extensive redesign of an existing course, SAFETY 582 - Safety in the Construction Industry, and the development and implementation of two new courses, SAFETY 584 -Construction Accident Prevention and SAFETY 682 - Construction Safety Management. Finally, we enlisted a number of regional construction companies willing to provide practicum experiences to our students.  The Department is developing another new program resulting in certification in Occupational Ergonomics. An ad hoc advisory committee has been formed with members representing industry, academia, and government. With substantial input from the advisory board the basic structure of the program has been defined and the curriculum is being elaborated. The Occupational Ergonomics certificate program will entail significant changes in the content of two existing courses (i.e. SAFETY 687 – Safe Handling of Materials and SAFETY 688 - Ergonomics), and the creation of an entirely new course. As part of this effort the Department will identify regional organizations willing to offer practical experiences in the field of ergonomics.  The Department has merged its courses SAFETY 684 – Industrial Hygiene and SAFETY 680 - Industrial Hygiene Instrumentation into a new course with an associated laboratory component. The new course, SAFETY 679 –Principles and Methods of Industrial Hygiene, will improve the integration of the critical aspects of industrial hygiene theory and practice. This change has been approved by the College and the University and will be implemented in the Fall 05.  Other changes planned for this academic year include a review of the course SAFETY 689 - Chemical Safety, which will be renamed and have its content revised. A new course is being developed in the area of environmental programs, which will be offered for the first time in a workshop format in the Spring 2005. These two courses, in tandem with the existing SAFETY 620 – Principles ofEnvironmental Safety, will provide the basis for a potential certificate program in Environmental Safety Management.  Part of the Department’s strategy to improve the quality of the graduate program is to increase the number of graduate level courses and reduce the number of slash courses. A first step in that direction will start this semester with the course SAFETY 657 Principles of Occupational Epidemiology, which will become a 700 level offering, increasing the graduate course selection and eliminating a slash course that has not been popular with our undergraduate students. The course SAFETY 753 – Legal Aspects of Occupational Safety will have its content updated and be offered more frequently in the near future to offset the planned deletion of the graduate component of the course SAFETY 453/653 -Legal Aspects in Safety.  The Department is making good progress in the implementation of a new multi-use safety laboratory. This project involves the use of funds from the University Lab Modification program complemented by funds obtained from private organizations and donors. Construction of the new lab has started and fundraising activities will continue for the next academic year.  
 
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The Department is conducting an in-depth evaluation of the requirements for the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET) accreditation. Discussion involving the Department faculty and the OESH Advisory Board has occurred. Contacts with the six similar programs accredited nation-wide are being made to appraise the cost-benefits of the initiative. Pending the results of that evaluation an action plan will be developed and undertaken.  The Department has implemented some important assessment initiatives in this period including an exit survey, a fieldwork survey, and an alumni survey. The exit survey is a written questionnaire administered by the Graduate Studies Office at the time students apply for graduation. The fieldwork survey is a self-administered mail questionnaire completed by companies participating in the OESH practicum program. Finally, the alumni survey was developed and administered for this first time this summer. This is a standardized phone interview with graduates of the program in the last five years.  The Department will continue working closely with the Advisory Board for its long term strategic development, and with its ad hoc advisory boards (i.e., Construction Safety and Occupational Ergonomics) and the OESH professional community to further improve curriculum.   II. Academic Assessment  Centrality The graduate program in Occupational Safety provides a natural extension to the successful major and minor undergraduate programs offered by the OESH Department. OESH course offerings support a number of other programs at UW-Whitewater including Geography, Health Physical Education Recreation & Coaching, Management, Sociology, and Social Work. In addition courses such as SAFETY 650 - Behavioral Aspects of Accident Prevention, and SAFETY 583 - Introduction to Security attract students from several other programs.  The OESH Department has a strong regional presence having supplied qualified safety professionals to a substantial number of prominent organizations across Wisconsin and the Midwest. The Department has developed innumerable collaborations with many private and public organizations through its fieldwork program, and through multiple student projects in several of its courses. Other significant partnerships include the OESH Advisory Board, the Construction Safety Advisory Board, and the Occupational Ergonomics Advisory Board described elsewhere in this report.  Mission statement The Department of Occupational and Environmental Safety & Health prepares students for rewarding careers protecting America's work force, the public and the natural environment from harm in today's age of rapid technological and scientific development. The Environmental Safety & Health (ESH) professional is concerned with the interaction between people and the physical, chemical, biological and psychological factors which
 
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affect their safety, health, and productivity. Coursework covers a wide range of subjects including ergonomics, accident prevention, security, and environmental protection. The students are provided with essential skills that enable them to recognize, devise and implement methods to control hazards. In addition, in consonance with the UWW Vision Statement, which calls for active learning experiences as an essential component of the educational process, occupational safety students are provided with a number of practical work site activities, including a full semester practicum with a practicing ESH professional.   Program Goals and Assessment OESH graduates possess the technical skills required for success in the profession. Graduates are able to determine which methodologies allow them to collect and analyze the relevant information necessary to reduce/eliminate workplace hazards. As discussed elsewhere, although a definitive decision has not been made on the issue of accreditation, the OESH program overwhelmingly adheres to the ABET curriculum criteria. Core areas of technical expertise listed by that accreditation association and embraced by the OESH graduate program include:  Safety & Health (S&H) fundamentals  of Environmental, Safety & Health (EHS) practiceLegal aspects  Psychological aspects of safety  Industrial hygiene & monitoring  Systems safety  Environmental aspects of S&H  Safety training & development   scionomErg  Fire protection and prevention  Safety program management  Product safety  Construction safety  Accident investigation  Transportation safety  Hazardous materials handling Security   Written & oral communication  Links between the core areas listed above and the curriculum are described in Appendix C. Appendix C indicates where in the curriculum (i.e., which courses) the required competences are addressed. In each completed table cell the assessment tools employed in the specific course are summarized. For a complete list of course requirements for the MS program please refer to Appendix B.  
 
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 Assessment data The OESH Department makes use of a variety of assessment strategies focusing both on internal and external constituencies’ perspectives. From an external vantage point the Department receives regular feedback from organizations cooperating in its fieldwork programs, from the Departmental Advisory Board, from the Construction Safety Advisory Board, from the Occupational Ergonomics Advisory Board, and from its membership and contacts with professional associations including the American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE), and the National Safety Council (NSC). From an internal perspective the Department relies on assessments conducted at each course level (refer to Appendix C), on the OESH Graduate Program Evaluation Exit Survey completed by students applying for graduation, and on the alumni survey.  Membership rosters and samples of meetings minutes/agendas for the three advisory boards listed above can be found in appendices G and H. Companies participating in the OESH fieldwork programs provide information on the quality of the knowledge and skills demonstrated by the students during that experience. At the end of the fieldwork period the site supervisor is asked to complete the Practicum Program Evaluation, a comprehensive mail-in survey focusing on the main technical areas of the intern performance. A copy of the Practicum Program Evaluation survey can be found is Appendix D. Since most students in this review period were practicing safety professionals, only a minority was enrolled in the practicum after the implementation of the survey. At this point we have received only two complete Practicum Program Evaluation surveys. The recent changes in the student body composition described elsewhere in this report will produce a significant increase in the demand for field experiences, and consequently we expect to establish a larger data basis on this constituency.  The previously mentioned Departmental Advisory Board was established to provide guidance on long-term plans for the development of the OESH programs. This strategic planning body represents the interests and viewpoints of central constituencies in the OESH field. This body convenes once a year and as necessary when significant decisions arise. The OESH Advisory Board had its latest meeting early this fall. The Construction Safety and the Occupational Advisory Boards, which are more focused bodies, perform similar roles but with an added emphasis on the needs of these specific areas. These advisory boards provide essential information on the economic and societal needs to be met by the OESH programs and meet typically at least once a semester. Reports issued by the chair of the OESH Department Advisory Board can be found in the Appendix G.  From a student perspective, each individual course has its own set of assessment tools of learning outcomes. Throughout the program learning assessment typically includes written examinations, practical projects involving real life problem solving, class activities including presentations, and a number of cooperative learning applications (Please refer to Appendix C). Students selecting SAFETY 789 - Readings & Research in Safety as part of their research requirements need to take a comprehensive examination at
 
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the conclusion of their coursework. The value of the comprehensive examination has been criticized in the past, and a final decision will be made this semester on either its elimination, which is the faculty preference at this point, or its complete restructuring.  Students at the time they apply for graduation are asked by the Graduate Studies Office to complete an exit survey on behalf of the Department. Through the Graduate Program Evaluation survey students assess the value of the different courses in their professional preparation. Please refer to Appendix E for a copy of the questionnaire used. Since its implementation 13 graduating students have completed the survey. Figures 1-4 summarize student responses to the question “for the courses listed below, please rate how valuable each was in your educational experience”. Courses were rated from 1 (No Value) to 5 (Extremely Valuable). Of the 25 courses evaluated by the respondents a significant majority (21) received mean rates between 4 (Valuable) and 5 (Extremely Valuable). Courses with evaluations below 4.0 were in most cases rated by a very small number of students, limiting any meaningful interpretation of the rating. Although the evidence at this point is overall reassuring, as data points are added in the future more reliable conclusions will be reached.     
      
 
Figure 1 Graduate Exit Survey
5.00 4.50 4.00 3.50 Mean 3.00 5 55.00 5 5 5 5 5 5 5 5 5 5 5Median 4.674.624.734.57Mode 4.38 2.504.00 4 2.00 1.50 1.00 788-Advncd Human 688-Ergo (9) 787-System Safety 783- Corp Safety 752-Safety Comm 753- Advncd Legal 653-Legal Aspects Factors (7) Analysis (8) Mangmnt (13) (11) (7) (10) Class (#of students which answered per class)
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5.00 4.50 4.00 3.50 3.00 2.50 2.00 1.50 1.00
5 5 4.30
685 Fire -Protctn (10)
Figure 2 Graduate Exit Surve y
4.91 5 5 4.89 5 5 5 5 4.67
5 4.20 4.13 4 4 4
684-IH (11) 680-IH Lab (9) 793- 799-Theseis 789-Readings Practicum (6) Rsrch (5) and Research (8) Class (#of s tudents w hich ans w ered per class )
Figure 3
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Mean Median Mode
  #N/A
    
 
Graduate Exit Survey
5 5 5 5.00 5 5 4.67 4.00 4 4.00 4 4
5.00 4.50 4.00 3.50 3.005 #N/A 4.50 2.50 2.003.00 3 1.50 1.00 798-Individual Study 581-Motor Fleet (1) 650 Behavioral (7) 657-Epi (3) 689-Chemical Safety 711-Principles of (6) (2) Institiutional Safety (2) Class (#of students which answered per class)
Figure 4 Graduate Exit Survey
5.00 4.50 4.00 3.50 3.00 55 5.00 4.5 4.25 2.50 4 4.00 #N/A 44 4 3.60 3.75 3.50 3.5 2.00 1.50 1.00 582-Safety in the 583-Security (4) 683-Industrial 686- Safe 620-Enviro (1) Occ Hearing Cnsrctn Industry Safety Managmt Handling (4) Cnsrvtn (1) (2) (5) Class (# of students which answered per class)
Mean Median Mode
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Mean Median Mode
The OESH Department has put in place a phone-administered survey to collect input from its alumni. This survey targeted 23 students who graduated in the last five years. We were able to contact 13 of these students corresponding to a response rate of 57%. All respondents were employed with 11 of them (85%) holding jobs directly related to safety. Figures 5-7 summarize the responses to the question “please rate how valuable the following courses were in the preparation for your professional life. Courses were rated from 1 (No Value) to 5 (Extremely Valuable). Of the 16 courses evaluated the overwhelming majority (14) received mean rates between 4 (Valuable) and 5 (Extremely Valuable). Respondents gave a mean rating of 4.21 for the overall quality of their preparation. Courses with evaluations below 4.0 were in all cases rated by a very small number of students preventing any interpretation of the ratings. In addition to the 100% employment observed, it should be emphasized that 54% of the respondents reported annual incomes between $60,000 and $70,000 with an approximate average of $60,000 for the entire sample.   
 
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Figure 5 Me an, Me dian, and Mode Values per Course
5 4.5 4 3.5 3A/N#555 4.50 4.5 4.2 4.27 4.21 5 2.5 4 4 4.00 4 44.00 4 4 3.67 2 1.5 1 Behavior al Aspect s( 8) Legal Aspect s( 12) Er gonomics( 11) Ind. Acc. Pr event ion Saf et y in Const r ucion Secur it y ( 3) ( 8) ( 2) C o u r se ( # o f st u d e n t s wh i c h a n swe r e d p e r c l a ss)
Figure 6 Mean, Median and Mode Values per Course
5 4.5 4 3.5 3 5 55 5 5 4.75 4.83 4.20 2.5 #N/A 4 4 4.00 44.00 4 2 1.5 1 Occ. Epidemiology (4) Industrial Hygiene (12) Ind. Safety Mgment. (9) Fire Protection (10) Safe Handling of Mat. Product Safety (2) (5) Class (# of students which answered per class)
3.50 3.5
Mean Median Mode
Mean Median Mode
 
 
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