TSTC student hopes to make workplaces safer with degree

TSTC student Lucas Chapa hopes to make workplaces safer once he enters the field with an Associate of Applied Science degree in Occupational Safety and Environmental Compliance.

Lack of fall protection, hazard communication standards and respiratory protection.

Those are the top three violations most frequently cited by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) following worksite inspections for the 2020 fiscal year.

While accidents can happen in the workplace, many are preventable with safety standards already in place.

Texas State Technical College student Lucas Chapa finds that aspect of TSTC’s Occupational Safety and Environmental Compliance program most interesting.

“I’ve always wanted everything to be the way it should be,” he said. “When people get lazy and don’t do it the right way, it can ruin a lot of things.”

Injuries, illnesses and even death can occur at a workplace that doesn’t heed prevention protocols. Occupational health and safety technicians can help keep job sites, companies and their workers healthy and safe.

One of Chapa’s uncles works in this field, which inspired Chapa to attend TSTC.

“I felt like it would be a good opportunity for me if I came here and got an associate (degree) and then try to go work for him,” Chapa said, adding that he expects to graduate in 2022.

Occupational health and safety technicians can make an average annual salary of $46,840 in Texas, according to onetonline.org, which predicts that the number of such positions will grow by 16% statewide through 2028.

Texas is the state that employs the highest number of occupational health and safety technicians, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land metropolitan area has the highest employment level of these positions of all other metropolitan areas in the nation.

Occupational Safety and Environmental Compliance students at TSTC’s campus in Fort Bend County are ideally positioned for these career opportunities.

“Students can hit the ground running,” TSTC instructor Andrea Skinner-Creeks said. “Here, they can learn from my experiences and I can guide them. The things that stick out are the real-life scenarios: the things I encountered in the field, and what I did in those situations.”

Skinner-Creeks adds that her students gain more than relevant training in their studies. They also learn soft skills like managing intrapersonal relationships, giving presentations and being confident in their communication skills.

“It’s been really fun,” Chapa said of his experience with the program. “The teachers have been very, very nice. I’ve learned a lot from them just from the couple semesters I’ve been here already. Just being here at TSTC, it’s a fun environment.”

Would he recommend this program to prospective students?

“Yes, I would,” Chapa said. “Definitely.”

In addition to its Fort Bend County campus, TSTC offers an Associate of Applied Science degree in Occupational Safety and Environmental Compliance at its Breckenridge and Waco campuses.

Learn more about TSTC at tstc.edu.

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