Occupational Health and Safety Management

Post-Degree Diploma in Occupational Health and Safety Management

After completing a bachelor degree (honurs specialization in health sciences with a minor in linguistics) from the University of Western Ontario, I was at a standstill. Like many recent graduates, I was unsure where to go from here. All I knew was that I was interested in working in the healthcare setting, I really enjoyed my occupational health and safety classes, and I had little knowledge of my options. One day while reading my e-mails I noticed one from one of my favourite undergraduate professors, Linda Clark. The e-mail was about the post-degree diploma offered by Continuing Studies at the University of Western Ontario, and read:

“How can you combine your interests in working with people, and health, and landing a prosperous job after graduation? Western’s Diploma in Occupational Health & Safety Management is the answer!”

It was perfect! It gave me an opportunity to put my undergraduate degree to great use, and get into a growing and interesting field. It is a one-year, full-time program that begins in September, is taught by professionals in the field, and seemed like a great way to prepare me for a career. The most interesting aspect of the program was the hands-on work placement that is offered – it seemed like a great way to get valuable experience, make some connections, and help me decide what I liked best about the field I was about to be entering.

“The Diploma in Occupational Health and Safety Management is designed to provide students with the practical and applied knowledge and skills required to manage the occupational health and safety function in the workplace. The Diploma will consist of 7.5 courses, comprised of 10 diploma-credit half-courses and 1 practicum session. Students will be required to have completed a series of specified prerequisite degree-credit courses in Health Sciences, Administrative and Commercial Studies, Statistics and Business, or equivalents, in order to be considered for admission to the Diploma program.” http://www.westerncalendar.uwo.ca/2011/pg310.html

Where I am at now:

I was accepted into the program and started in September 2011. There are fewer than 20 people in my program, making the classroom size perfect to maintain a close relationship with all of my professors and peers. We are able to have group discussions, group activities and sometimes a friendly debate here or there. To date I have completed 6 in-class courses, I am currently finishing up 2 online courses (Risk Management and WSIB), and I started my Practicum Placement at the London Health Sciences Centre (LHSC) in January of 2012. Applying for a practicum placement was scary at first, because I tend to get nervous during interviews, but thankfully several prep sessions were offered to help us with our resumes, what to expect in the interviews, and what questions we should be asking. It made the interview process fun, and thankfully I was able to get my first choice for my placement! To those who don’t know, the LHSC is a group of hospitals in London, Ontario (University Hospital, Victoria Hospital and South Street Hospital). I knew I wanted to stay in the healthcare field and there was no better place to do that than with LHSC. My placement supervisor has made it a great learning experience for me and made sure that I am able to get a broad understanding of every potential position in the company that concerns health and safety. We have our own WSIB specialist, ergonomist, several safety analysts, etc. I have had the opportunity to attend training sessions, conduct policy audits, help with accident investigations, conduct risk assessments, assist with fit testing, partake in the Joint Health and Safety Committee meetings, conduct workplace inspections, and I have even submitted a gap analysis to the Ministry of Labour – all of this within two months of working here. I have my own office, and everyone is extremely friendly and willing to help with my learning in any way they can.

Completed courses:

Accident Prevention and Investigation

  • We were able to conduct a mock accident investigation where we interviewed actors, filled out the required paperwork, and learned how to apply it to our workplaces in our field. I have already taken part of accident investigations at my workplace and it has been a huge advantage to already have a basic understanding of what needs to be done, and how to do it.

Ergonomics for Occupational Health and Safety

  • I found it to be very interesting and helped me use a lot of what I had learned in my undergraduate degree (anatomy, physiology, musculoskeletal injuries, etc.) while still being basic enough for my classmates with business backgrounds to keep-up with. I have a project right now that I am doing at my placement that involves the ergonomics of pushing a food truck, and I was able to use all of the tools and formulas that we had learned in this class in order to prove that the job process was going to be safe for employees – my most interesting project yet. It has also helped my in my personal life with knowing how to make my own workspace ergonomically friendly (including my desk at home).

Introduction to Toxicology for Occupational Health and Safety

  • Having my placement at a hospital, I am around numerous amounts of chemicals, as well as have to assist with Code Brown Emergency Responses (In-Facility Hazardous Spills), overviewing the company MSDS, and investigating chemicals found on workplace inspections. This course helped me understand the risks associated with chemicals and biological hazards, how to read and create workplace labels, etc.

 Introduction to Environmental Issues for Occupational Health and Safety

  • I really enjoyed this course. We were able to go to a couple field trips, learn about environmental issues, what their causes are and how they can affect the workers, community, and the environment. One of the fieldtrips was to a landfill just outside of London, Ontario where we were given a tour of the facility, and learned about how waste is managed and the stringent precautions they take to protect the environment. It gives you a more complete understanding of what happens when you are dealing with hazardous chemicals in the workplace and what needs to be done in order to remove them.

 Introduction to Occupational Health and Safety Legislation

  • While some may hear “legislation” and automatically think “boring”, it was far from that (for me anyways)! We were given a basic understanding of the Occupational Health and Safety Act, shown how to use the act to make sure we are being compliant, learned about the consequences that happen if you don’t follow the act (i.e. fines and even jail time), we learned the different between a guideline, a policy and a law, and were given many different scenarios to help us practice. We learned about designated substances, ACGIH legislation, first aid, confined spaces, etc. This information is crucial and I use it every day in my placement, whether I am conducting a gap analysis, or even just walking through my workplace and notice something that unsafe (i.e. no guardrail where the legislation requires one).

 Occupational Hygiene

  • I found this course to be very helpful with learning how to recognize unsafe work conditions, how to evaluate a situation and which controls to put in place to make a workplace safe. I have already used these when completing my policy audit, gap analysis and workplace inspections. This course has helped me with suggesting controls, and knowing which controls are best and why.

I am almost done by Risk Assessment course, and my WSIB course – both of which have given us specific assignments that we can apply to our placements, and help us better understand why it is necessary and how they are related to our workplaces. Come May we will have two new online courses that will finish in August, leading to our graduation! I have made so many contacts already, learned a lot about the field that I wish to enter, and can’t wait until I can go out there and apply for jobs, already having an advantage over those with only bachelor degrees. After this program I will have 8 months of quality work experience, great references, a recognized post-degree diploma in my field of interest, as well as a bachelor’s degree. I am excited to finally know what I want to do for the rest of my life and already have my foot in the door! In the field of occupational health and safety there are always new things to learn, new people to meet, new areas to master and room to grow.

If you have any questions about my experience with the program, please feel free to contact me, Adelia, at amarche@uwo.ca or for more information about the program you can go to http://www.uwo.ca/cstudies/postdegree/ohs/








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