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Michael O’Berry teaches occupational safety at ENMU-Roswell and is the director for National Center of Education, Health and Safety Education. (Timothy P. Howsare Photo)

ENMU-R’s occupation safety program is one of the best around, but few people know about it

Michael O’Berry, who teaches occupational safety at ENMU-Roswell, said in the past about all you had to do to be a safety trainer was drive a white truck with a magnetic sign stuck to each side.

“If I can maybe lean just two more inches then I can …. WHOOPS!” (Courtesy of the National Center of Education, Health and Safety Education)

Nowadays, companies are seeking certified safety trainers and technicians and are offering starting salaries that range between $70,000 to $80,000, O’Berry said. Mid-career people make over $100,000.

Along with that, they will often reimburse you for your tuition when you graduate.

“That’s really good for a two-year degree,” he said.

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O’Berry has two very long job titles, chair for the ENMU-R Occupational Safety Engineering and Environmental Management Technologies Program, and director for the National Center of Education, Health and Safety Education (NCEHSE).

O’Berry said that while they are two separate programs, the focus of both is basically safe — keeping everyone safe on the job.

Except for the model of a pump jack out front, the building that O’Berry works in at the Eastern New Mexico University-Roswell is very nondescript. You could drive by it a hundred times and not know it’s there. A similar claim could be made for the program itself, which O’Berry said many people have not heard about.

O’Berry has 37 years experience teaching occupational safety, fire and environmental management and retired from the U.S. Air Force after 20 years, where he also taught occupational safety.

O’Berry said he teaches classes all over the country. He recently flew back to Roswell after teaching a class in his former home state of Florida.

He said a student can get an entire degree online or in class, and a four-year degree is offered through ENMU-Portales.

“All classes are built with American National Standards Institute compliance in mind,” he said. “And it’s is one of the most affordable accredited colleges in the country.”

O’Berry said his average student is between 36 to 38 years old, and that he has a couple of a 60 year olds.

“All of our classes are designed with working individuals in mind,” he said, adding that most students who go into the program are changing careers.

And all classes are built with American National Standards Institute compliance in mind.

“We do a lot of oil and gas industry compliance, but that is a very small portion overall,” he said. “We can customize a program for a particular industry.”

O’Berry said people will call him and ask, “What one class do I have to take to be a safety trainer?”

He answers there is a lot more to it than just taking one class.

“In all my classes there is always that ‘OS moment,’ or ‘oh shucks moments,” he said. “There is a lot of word-of-mouth safety training going on, and that causes a lot of problems when OSHA shows up.”

Graduates deal with a lot of government agencies, like OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration), the EPA and state and local fire marshals.

O’Berry said OSHA fines for compliance violations are substantial — to the tune of $12,000 for even a small infraction. Then there’s the “10-fold” factor — where a business or industry can be fined up to $120,000 if it can be proven that the employer knew about the safety issue but didn’t do anything to fix the problem.

But let’s say you’re not a big industry. You own a small business, like metal fabrication, that employs eight people, and you want everyone to be tip-top on the job as far as safety.

It isn’t necessary for you or any of your employees to go the full nine yards with a certificate program, because O’Berry can bring the classroom to your work site.

For more information, visit roswell.enmu.edu or ncehsedu.com.

Vistas editor Timothy P. Howsare can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 311, or vistas@rdrnews.com.