ECU students, professor receive honors at ASSP national conference

Dr. Michael Behm, professor of occupational safety in the Department of Technology Systems, was elected as vice president of the American Society of Safety Professionals Council on Academic Affairs and Research.

Two students and a professor from the College of Engineering and Technology represented East Carolina University at the American Society of Safety Professionals (ASSP) national Professional Development Conference and Exposition in New Orleans.

Dr. Michael Behm, professor of occupational safety in the Department of Technology Systems, was elected as vice president of the ASSP’s Council on Academic Affairs and Research.

Two students, Floyd O’Connell and Kong Lee, attended the conference after research posters they created were accepted for presentation during the event.

Behm started his three-year term on July 1. He will serve as chair of the council that is designed to oversee academic-related matters, including the development of educational standards and accreditation, student engagement and research-related activities for the ASSP.

“I’m excited,” Behm said. “I hope to say after three years that we’ve really made an impact.”

Behm said the council is in its first year.

“ASSP wanted to raise the level of education and research within the profession,” he said. “That’s a good thing.”

He said ASSP had always had an educational committee, but research was not always part of that group.

“The research aspect is very new to the society,” Behm said. “That’s the most challenging and pressing issue is to elevate research, and research that is viewed by the practitioners as being useful, ensuring that research isn’t being done just for research’s sake and is sitting in a journal somewhere, but that it is useful. They see the value in research, and they would like to see it more.”

As for O’Connell and Lee, Behm said he was proud of their accomplishments.

“They did a great job,” he said.

O’Connell’s research poster looked at underreporting of injury and illness in the military.

“It is anticipated that this research will be of interest to safety and health professionals, government agencies and insurance companies,” O’Connell said. “It will serve as a complement to existing research on this topic and serve as a foundation to examine professional codes of ethics and the topic of injury underreporting within the safety and health profession.”

O’Connell, from Clayton, said he got a lot out of attending the conference.

“The conference reveled to me that there are many people that care about the safety of others,” he said. “It also showed me that my education does not stop when I graduate. To be an occupational safety professional, I must become a lifelong learner. The conference helps to keep occupational safety professionals updated with current material and offers the training needed to maintain certificates needed to be a safety professional.”

O’Connell said students attending the conference had roundtable discussions where they learned from occupational safety professionals about career experiences, skills and various areas of the safety industry.

“The discussions allowed me to gain a broader perspective on what it is like to be an occupational safety professional and what will be expected from me,” O’Connell said.

Lee’s goal is to understand the perception of safety among Hmong workers in a manufacturing setting.

“The significance of the study is that it allows safety professionals to better understand how to train and educate workers with different cultural backgrounds,” Lee said.

Lee, from Newton, said he appreciated the opportunity to attend the event.

“The Professional Development Conference was a great way for me to network and meet other professionals in my field,” Lee said. “Having the chance to meet other students who presented their posters was another great way for me to network with aspiring safety professionals.”

Lee said meeting other students provided him the chance to connect with the next generation of safety professionals.

“It was crucial for me to network with these individuals because I will see them again or work with them in the future,” Lee said.

According to its website, the ASSP is a worldwide association designed to support occupational safety and health professionals in efforts to prevent workplace injuries, illnesses and fatalities. The organization provides education, advocacy and standards development to its members while advancing the profession as a whole.