Safety Engineers Help Colorado School

November 9, 2009

One day while visiting a construction site operated by a client’s vocational technical school, American Society of Safety Engineers’ (ASSE) Colorado Chapter member Mark Semonisck, CSP, assistant vice president and senior loss control consultant for Lockton Companies’ Denver office, not only noticed a need to help students working there, but decided to do something about it. He was joined by Aurora Public School’s (APS) Safety Manager MaryLee Gibson, also an ASSE member.

Semonisck and Gibson were visiting a construction site where students in Pickens Technical College’s Home Construction Program were building a house. They noticed that several students at the site were wearing tennis shoes instead of appropriate footwear—sturdy work boots. So they organized a program at Lockton to raise money to purchase work boots for disadvantaged students in the school’s construction classes and then expanded it to include the automotive programs. Gibson, according to Semonisck, was a key player in both making the program happen but more importantly with the on-going implementation. The program, the APS-Lockton Safe Affordable Footwear to Youth (SAFTY) Shoe program partnership, was formed and will exist for many years.

“My job as a safety professional is not just a job, but to me it also means helping people protect their lives, their livelihoods, and much more! The earlier you get safety ingrained into worker’s minds and habits, the better,” Semonisck said. “Serious injuries to your feet, your arms and your body will stay with you all of your life and your career. That’s why safety professionals work day in and day out to identify risks and hazards and make sure employees have the proper safety gear and training to do their job without sustaining an injury or illness. Attitude and prevention is the way to go.”

Semonisck raised enough money within Lockton to purchase 70 pairs of boots for students at a discounted price of $50 per pair. The boots can cost more than $75. Gibson managed the program and included the automotive and other trade groups.

One of the recipients of the donated boots was Brendan Franklin, who noted, “It’s always good to be prepared and have a good, solid pair of work boots. Especially when you’re 15 or 20 feet up, you want to make sure you’re safe and stable.”

Semonisck said workers should always consult with their company’s occupational safety and health professional to make sure they are properly trained and equipped to do their job safely. Personal protection equipment (PPE) is equipment worn by a worker to minimize exposure to specific occupational hazards. In addition to appropriate footwear, examples of PPE include respirators, gloves, aprons, protection from falls, full body suits, and head and eye protection. Using PPE is only one element in a complete safety program that should include a variety of strategies to maintain a safe and healthy occupational environment. PPE does not reduce the hazard itself nor does it guarantee permanent or total protection.

“I’m pleased we were able to help enhance safety for these students,” Gibson said. “We hope they share this knowledge with fellow students and employees, and remember to stay safe throughout their career.”

In addition to Gibson’s and Semonisck’s efforts, the ASSE Colorado Chapter also assists with the annual Colorado Construction Career Days held at the Adams County Fairgrounds in early October. Volunteers provide a hands-on experience of career options in design and construction for close to 1600 high school students.

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