ECU safety professional receives ASSP award

An East Carolina University safety professional and alumnus has received recognition from a global safety organization.

Ogaga Tebehaevu, an industrial hygiene specialist in ECU’s Office of Environmental Health and Safety, received a 2020 Emerging Professional Award from the American Society of Safety Professionals (ASSP).

According to ASSP, the new award recognizes next-generation safety leaders less than 40 years old who demonstrate leadership, volunteerism and a desire to widely impact workplace safety. For being one of five people to receive the award, Tebehaevu will be part of an ASSP professional development program that aims to advance occupational safety and health careers while supporting the profession.

Ogaga Tebehaevu earned his Master of Science in occupational safety from ECU in 2015. (Contributed photo)

“It means a lot to me to be one of the five people selected for this maiden award,” Tebehaevu said. “The American Society of Safety Professionals is a global and the world’s oldest professional safety organization. Being recognized in such a capacity is a great honor. It reinforces the fact that you are doing the right thing and making a difference, which in this case is protecting lives and making people happy.”

Tebehaevu has been a safety professional for more than 10 years. At ECU, he assesses workplace and environmental hazards and recommends measures to prevent those hazards from impacting the health and safety of staff, faculty and students.

Beyond his work at ECU, Tebehaevu serves on various committees within the occupational safety and health community and is a safety speaker, mentor, author and volunteer. He is a certified safety professional and certified industrial hygienist, and an assistant regional vice president of student affairs for ASSP Region VI.

“I consider myself a servant leader who is always willing to make a difference in any environment,” Tebehaevu said.

With that in mind, Tebehaevu gives back to students in occupational safety and health programs through guest lectures and support of projects whether coursework, thesis or practicum.

“I leverage my position with ASSP and AIHA (American Industrial Hygiene Association) to impact the growth and success of our students in the occupational safety and environmental health programs on campus,” Tebehaevu said. “I facilitate students’ involvement with these organizations by engaging them in professional conferences — local, regional and national — and developing networking events during such conferences that allow students to be professionally engaged and network with industry leaders. Some of our students have won scholarships and secured internship opportunities and full-time positions as a result of this engagement.”

Tebehaevu is a graduate of the program he now supports, receiving his Master of Science in occupational safety (MSOS) from ECU in 2015.

“The ECU MSOS program is a complete package. I am fortunate to be an alumnus,” he said. “The program has impacted my career in multiple ways to be the professional that I am today. The MSOS curriculum is both research-driven and practically based so that graduates are well-positioned to take up challenges and provide solutions to emerging industry issues. Students are challenged to think critically, be analytical, and at the same time humble and ethical as they progress through their career. All of these are in the tool kit that I use daily.”

The ASSP is a nonprofit society of nearly 40,000 professionals in a variety of industries. Its goal is to advance its members and the safety profession through education, advocacy, standards and a professional community.