Society honors ECU’s Behm with state safety award

An East Carolina University professor has been named the 2022 Safety Professional of the Year (SPY) by the North Carolina chapter of the American Society of Safety Professionals (ASSP).

Dr. Michael Behm, a professor in the Department of Technology Systems, received the award during a chapter dinner in Durham.

“I’m very thankful and appreciative to win the Carolina chapter SPY Award,” said Behm, who has been involved with ASSP since 1991. “It’s nice to be recognized by your peers.”

Dr. Michael Behm holds his 2022 Safety Professional of the Year award.

In announcing Behm’s recognition, ASSP noted his various research projects on risk assessment, safe design and construction safety that have earned both national and international recognition as well as his service on various scientific boards. Behm also serves as faculty advisor to ECU’s student chapter of ASSP.

Behm was instrumental in helping the Master of Science in occupational safety (MSOS) program achieve a six-year accreditation from the Applied and Natural Sciences Accreditation Commission of the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET).

“We are extremely proud of this accomplishment,” said Behm, who is in his 19th year at ECU. “Our advisory board, students, alumni and especially my ECU colleague Dylan Hardison have made many valuable contributions to continually improve our program. This is especially true of the new students entering the profession to which we owe much appreciation to the Carolina chapter for all their support over the years.”

Behm noted that occupational safety professionals are in high demand, especially since the COVID-19 pandemic.

“All of a sudden, organizations looked to their own health and safety professionals to help them manage a pandemic,” he said. “Our program gives students the necessary problem-solving, critical-thinking and research skills that when a wide variety of issues develop, they can help their organizations manage their risks effectively.”

He said he has already received requests for student interns for the summer of 2023 from three organizations.

“We need students to satisfy the employers who are out there looking for safety professionals,” Behm said.

He said ECU is one of a few universities offering a master’s in occupational safety.

“It’s a unique program,” he said. “It’s not like a history or nursing program where almost every university has one. We’re one of two in the state, and there’s no program like it in Virginia and South Carolina. We’re one of only three that offer an ABET accredited graduate program in occupational safety online in the country.”

Behm said the program has scheduled a series of online informational sessions that will feature alumni, students, advisory board members, employers and faculty. Those interested can register through the program website.

“It’s a unique profession,” Behm said. “People who get into it may be in the environmental field or human resources field and then are being asked to take on safety and health responsibilities for their organizations. Or maybe they have worked their way up in occupational safety responsibilities, and they want to formalize their degrees.”

Behm said most of the students in ECU’s program are working professionals or are looking for a career change. The program introduces them to contemporary theories and practices in occupational safety through a blend of research, teaching and service.

“Occupational safety professionals help organizations manage risk and enhance employee well-being, so we have an important role,” Behm said.

Established in 1911, ASSP is a global organization of 36,000 occupational safety and health professionals. ECU is part of the North Carolina chapter that stretches roughly from Durham to the coast.