Emerging opportunities for environmental safety careers in Pennsylvania

If there’s one thing businesses can never afford to do, it’s cause harm to their employees or the environment. That’s why positions in environmental safety management are becoming more critical than ever — in every industry. Choosing a path in environmental safety management isn’t just a smart career move; it’s a step toward a whole new industrial revolution.

Filling the need close to home

Western Pennsylvania residents have even more opportunity to emerge as leaders in environmental safety. That’s because, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, New York, Ohio and Pennsylvania are among the top five states with the most employment opportunities for occupational health and safety specialists. That's not to mention the burgeoning educational and training opportunities available locally. Thiel College, for example, recently announced the addition of an Environmental Safety Program, a four-year degree that will be fully launched in 2019, with courses available to students this spring.

“Western Pennsylvania and eastern Ohio are experiencing an industrial transformation,” said Mark Marmo, president and CEO of Deep Well Services and member of Thiel College’s board of trustees, in a press release. “This degree will give our graduates high earning and growth potential regardless of the industry they work in.”

A fit for every industry

While an oil rig might have little in common with a hospital, they share a similar need: protocol and enforcement for environmental safety standards. The beauty of this career path is that it equips students to work in virtually any industry — particularly those with a local impact, such as mining, manufacturing, education, drilling and health care.

“These kinds of skills are needed, regardless of the field you’re in,” said John Thigpen, president of ILSCO Extrusions Inc., in a recent panel discussion at Thiel College. “Safety professionals play a vital role in guiding policy development, assisting in goal-setting, auditing and conducting hazard analysis.”

Protecting the lifeblood of the business

It’s the first and most important expense and investment in any business: people. Protecting employees is something businesses just can’t afford not to do. Environmental safety specialists are key in preventing harm and limiting impact on both people and the environment.

According to environmentalscience.org, “when (these professionals) work in environmental roles, it is about ensuring that steps are taken to protect the environment from the actions of the organization, and ensuring that people are protected from the environment.”

A well-rounded skill set

Working in the business world requires a variety of skills. While environmental safety managers have extensive training and key insight into health and safety policy creation, execution and enforcement, they also need a head for business. That’s exactly why Thiel College has built its major with a strong foundation of cross-discipline knowledge.

“Students, regardless of graduate direction, are going to be dealing with businesses, requiring excellent language, communication and decision-making skills,” Department of Business Administration and Accounting and a faculty member for the Environmental Safety Management program Gary Witosky said. “Our courses were selected as a base of knowledge for students in business. We chose these intentionally to give students this kind of background and offer the opportunity to double major or minor in business, as well as safety management."

Thiel’s program is more than a track in the business department. The Environmental Safety Management program at Thiel College is the only one in Pennsylvania with environmental science at its core.

Of course, it’s not just safety specialists who benefit from training and education. Today’s environmental safety management students could be tomorrow’s business leaders.

“Leaders need these skills,” Thigpen said. “Safety starts with leaders and trickles down to the rest of the corporation.”

A journalism graduate from Brigham Young University, Kristen has experience writing in a variety of fields, including art and culture, health and fitness and financial and real estate services. Kristen has written for USA Today, SFGate and the Knot.

This article is brought to you by Thiel College.