Mar 8, 2021
Rob is a professor at Oklahoma State University in the Fire
Protection and Safety Engineering Technology program. Rob has
a PHD in environmental sciences, a master’s in industrial hygiene
and a undergraduate degree from OSU in fire protection and safety
technology. In this episode of Fire Code Tech we get into Rob’s
professional career in environmental health and safety as well as
his time at Oklahoma State University. There is a ton of great
information for professional development as well as exposition on
where the program has been and where it is going.
Would you speak about your genesis in fire and life safety? 2:36
Can you touch on a couple of the different roles you had early in your career? 6:18
What was some of the roles that you enjoyed when you attended college at OSU in FPST? 10:01
What does the role of an environment health and safety specialist look like? 12:16
Why would a employer or a employee want to invest in a CIH professional? 16:27
Is there a story about your career that you would share? 22:03
What is the fire protection program at OSU for those who do not know? 29:47
What is an overview of the coursework at the OSU FPSET program? 35:15
How has the program changed since you started your time at OSU? 42:15
What career advice do you have for professionals? 50:28
Where do you like to get professional information? 53:08
Hello, all welcome to the show. I'm Gus Gagliardi, and this is fire code tech on fire code tech. We interview fire protection professionals from all different careers and backgrounds in order to provide insight and a resource for those in the field. My goal is to help you become a more informed fire protection.
Professional fire code tech has interviews with engineers and researchers, fire marshals, and insurance professionals, and highlights topics like codes and standards, engineering systems, professional development, and trending topics in the industry. So if you're someone who wants to know more about fire protection or the fascinating stories of those who are in the field, you're in the right place.
Hello, all welcome to episode 24 of fire code tech. In this episode, we have Robert Agnew. Rob has a PhD in environmental sciences, as well as a master's degree in industrial hygiene. We also get into Rob's time at Oklahoma state as a student. In this episode, we talk about Rob's fascinating career with his origins in fire and life safety.
We get into Rob's roles in environmental health and safety, and some of the interesting project work he's been a part of Rob tells us all about the program at Oklahoma state. More specifically, the fire protection and safety engineering and technology program. We get into Rob's history with the program there as a student, as well as what O U's F P S C T program is doing today.
And moving forward, we get into some really great tips for professionals, as well as where Rob sees the industry going. And some topics that are new or emerging for professionals really enjoyed this episode. It was one of my bucket list episodes to be able to talk to one of my great professors from OSU.
From my time there as a student, they were hugely influential for, um, what I'm doing today. If you enjoy the show, please subscribe and give us a review on iTunes. Let's get into the show. Well, Rob, welcome to the podcast. I can't tell you how much, uh, I'm excited about having one of my, um, former professors at Oklahoma state.
Um, come talk to me on the show. It's uh, it's a real dream. Well, great. Well thank you. You're you're too kind. It's great to be. Awesome. So I just wanted to, um, start out in traditional fashion and ask you about your Genesis and fire and life safety and kind of how you found your way into it. Sure. Uh, it started all the way back in high school and maybe even a little before, uh, doing, taking CPR classes, uh, you know, junior lifeguard though.
I never was a junior lifeguard. I started taking the, the classes for it. My mom was a nurse and kind of just had a inkling towards taking care of others. And, uh, my best friend from all of grade school joined, uh, the county search and rescue team. It was a wilderness, uh, you know, search and rescue team.
And we were part of a Explorer post attached to the Sheriff's department. And I spent all four years in high school, uh, on the search and rescue team, you know, back back when we had pagers, uh, you know, the old Motorola Bravos, uh, we get called out and go and search for lost hikers, or sometimes we'd assist in evident searches.
Uh, unfortunately we, we had body recoveries. Uh, we went on and that really got me into, uh, this whole, you know, service of, of community and others. It encouraged me to take my. EMT my emergency medical technician. So I did that as, as actually I started the class before I even turned 18, but I finished, uh, after I turned 18.
So I, I had my EMT and did my ride alongs, uh, those sorts of things. And, and all along, I was kind of interested in fire. We worked several wildfires with county fire, uh, supporting county fire. Um, I got to, you know, help coordinate, uh, helicopter activities and manage radio, uh, channel allocations, working at a command post.
I've been using ICS and wildfires since, uh, the early nineties. So that was great. It really just got me into this. And so then it was, well, what am I gonna do? Uh, I kind of thought maybe I'd go fire academy. Um, again, my mother was like, uh, want you to want you to look at college too? And so I started asking around and everybody kept saying, you gotta check out Oklahoma state.
I got this great fire program. And so I went to the library. This is, you know, very much the Dawn of the internet at that time, went to the library, found some information, um, you know, made some, made some requests for info and decided to come out and take a tour. And at that time classes were in station two, the campus fire station, and, uh, just absolutely fell in love with it.
In fact, I didn't apply to any other college except OSU. Um, you know, coming from California was a 1500 mile move. Uh, but I did it and never looked back, man. That's incredible that you had such an early start with, uh, life safety and just, um, EMS and kind of getting a feel for what it looks like to be involved with, uh, fire and life safety.
That's, that's pretty incredible that you, that you found your origin and it so early. I think you're one of the few I've talked to that has a. A, uh, beginning of their career that resembles that. Yeah. I, I think, uh, I think the folks I went to high school with would, uh, would say, I, I definitely found the, the path that certainly matched my interest from, from that age.
That's good. That's good. You found your passion early. I, I see a lot of people struggle with that. So I wanted to follow up on that line of conversation with, you know, just a little bit more about your first professional roles and kind of what those looked like, uh, as your career or progressed. Yeah, Uhhuh , uh, one of my, my first, I guess, jobs in the profession, I, it was kind of a, an internship with, uh, the OU health science center.
Which I was still just wrapping up, uh, my undergrad at OSU and was starting to feel the pull towards the industrial hygiene arena. Uh, I, I had performed a, uh, waste anesthetic gas exposure assessment at OU as part of my, um, one of my industrial hygiene projects for class. And from there, I, I got an internship and would spend, uh, winter break and spring break and sometimes the odd weekend and parts of summer at the health science center, doing all kinds of stuff.
And that's where I first kind of got in exposed to the environmental side and waste management. Uh it's you know, being a, you know, 20 or 21 year old and getting called to the animal research facility for a waste pickup. And I, I walk in the door and I'm here for the waste pickup. I go it's over there in the freezer.
And so I opened the freezer and, and sitting in there, our. For animal carcasses. And I looked to the lab manager and I are those baboons. He goes, yep. oh my gosh. Yeah. That's incredible. That sounds like something that would throw any, um, yeah. Anybody for a loop. I was about to put the qualifier in there for a student, but no, I think anybody would be.
Yeah. And so I asked her, I said, well, what did you do to 'em? Well, we infected them with a virus and then we tried to kill it with radiation and it didn't work. Wow. And so, so yeah, I had a biohazardous radioactive waste to try to figure out how to dispose of, and I found one incinerator in the country that could accept that waste stream.
Oh, my gosh. So from the very, you know, early on in your career, you were tasked with, um, getting creative and solving some interesting, uh, health and safety problems. Yeah, absolutely. And, and right after that, my, my first, I guess, career jobs with, uh, Seagate, uh, hard drive manufacturer, and we built a facility in Mexico and we had a, you know, a series of small fires and we could never get the fire department to respond.
Um, you know, they had one station for a town of 300,000 people. Uh, and so if we were a bit down the list, so we had to go down there and build our own fire brigade. Um, and so trying to learn how to communicate. I, you know, I spoke a little bit of Spanish from, from my upbringing in, in California, but trying to go down there and, and coordinate and train and build a fire brigade, uh, down there and work with, uh, fire prevention laws in, in Mexico or the noms, uh, which are, um, Not not exactly what they are here in the us, but they're based on it.
Um, but trying to translate them, you try to, you know, put an American bent on it and you're not even sure if that's right. And so there's a lot of challenges there early on, uh, with trying to, to work internationally, uh, on fire prevention issues as well. That's fascinating. I always have a real interest in how, you know, model codes and standards work outside the us.
So yeah, there are multiple points there. Uh, I, uh, wanted to ask, I realized after you got started into your professional roles a little bit, you know, so it sounds like industrial hygiene and some of these more safety focused classes was kind of what, um, spoke to you when you at your, when you were attending OSU.
But yeah, I just wanted to ask, um, you know, what was some of your favorite parts of your experience when you attended OSU in the F P S T program? Yeah. You know, that was, it's an interesting transition, you know, I went from. Really thinking I wanted to be a firefighter coming here, looking at, at the really, I was very focused on the fire side, which even today, a lot of our students come here and like, you know, fire is, is on the, the forefront of their mind.
And then, then you start taking some of these safety and occupational health classes, you know? Wow, this is, this is a whole nother world I didn't know about. Um, and for me it was, uh, professor Jim Hanson. He's retired now. We're still friends, but he taught industrial hygiene. And boy, he was just a, an exciting, energetic teacher.
He got, got me excited about it. And one of the assignments he had us do was that, that one where you had to go find a real exposure in a real business and go and measure the worker exposure and write a report and take it to management and say, you know, here's, here's the results. And you know, that that working with, with people, uh, I really liked, uh, you know, Not not to discredit those that, that work on the engineering side, cuz God bless 'em they do a great job and, and I appreciate everything they do.
But for me personally, working on design, um, didn't, didn't appeal to me, um, working with people, you know, that hands on talking to them, trying to help them with, uh, you know, their, their health and their long term, you know, health outcomes, uh, really resonated with me. And so that, that's just kind of, uh, how it changed and evolved.
At least my outlook on, on what I wanted to do while I was here at OSU. Wow. I like that answer interested in, it seems like you're always interested in the challenge and interested in the, the human aspect of that challenge as well. So certainly that's interesting. But, um, so I wanted to, you know, move on and mm-hmm, talk about, uh, the, you know, the majority of your career in industry was.
As that environmental health and safety professional in, um, different gradients of that role. But yeah, always when I get professionals on the show and it's a, you know, kind of a career that I haven't explored yet, I like to get a sense of, you know, from somebody who's done it. Um, what that looks like. So mm-hmm yeah.
I'd love to hear about that. Yeah. So, so the most of my career was actually with, uh, with Raytheon company, um, you know, started out as a environmental health and safety engineer became a manager, worked my way up eventually, uh, to a, a senior manager, um, with big section of a business unit, multiple facilities, managing comprehensive environmental health safety asset protections is what we call the, the fire prevention side of things.
And all of those things deal with administrative law in, in one way or the other, either the, the OSHA standards, the EPA regulations, the fire code, and. My kind of elevator speech, you know, if the, you know, the CEO bumps into you and the elevator says, you know, what the heck do you do? I always like to say that that the environmental health and safety department maintains the company's right to do business.
Because if we, if we don't do our job, if we hurt people or we pollute the environment, or we burn the building down, uh, we're not in business anymore. And you know, this is kind of this, you, you have a foot in, in both sides on the, on the one side, you're very much a representative of the company. And again, defending its right to do business, you know, keeping the doors open on the other side, you're also the advocate for the employee, you know, protecting their health, protecting their safety, you know, convincing management that wearing a respirator all day is terrible.
And I think that may be the, the. Very small silver lining of, of, uh, the COVID 19 pandemic is that, uh, every manager in business, uh, in the entire globe now knows that wearing something on your face, uh, all day is terrible. Um, and so hopefully we can get more engineering controls and ventilation controls rather than putting everybody in, in respirators.
Um, and so that's kind of that rule. It's just that protecting worker health and safety and protecting the company's right to do. Yeah, I, you know, I, I have a friend who works in, uh, for a company that's, uh, in a mining operations and he's an environmental health and safety expert. And, you know, to your point about maintaining the company's right to do business, you know, he's unfortunately had to deal with, um, the costly implications of a, a business, you know, that, that has had safety in incidents.
Mm-hmm , I mean, it's, uh, it sounds like a, a nightmares scenario that he's had to, you know, go through with, um, you know, uh, injuries on the job, you know, um, being investigated by OSHA and or IHA and some of these other things that have happened. So yeah, I think that, uh, that's a great point. Yeah. Kind of the, the, the new kind of buzzword, or I guess that's a term really, uh, you're hearing now is social license to operate, um, that if, if your community.
That your business is in, you know, if you're polluting it's water or it's air, uh, the community will, will no longer tolerate your business. Um, and so it's being called social license to operate, same thing we're seeing with, you know, conflict minerals, uh, and those sorts of, of things that it's kind of started to expand the scope of EHS, uh, a bit looking at some of these supply chain issues, uh, how they impact, uh, human health and safety.
And then how, again, how that ties back to the company's right. To do business with social license to operate. Yeah. I mean, that sounds like, uh, it's indirectly in the vein of, you know, what we see in a more of the, the social or the like, uh, individual side of the, the news and the media with, you know, people getting canceled.
I could see that, you know, um, kind of having to overlap, overlap with the, you know, companies being canceled for not maintaining this, uh, mm-hmm social capital that is, um, doing business in ethical way. Mm-hmm absolutely. But so, yeah, also, um, in the vein of, of your career in, you know, things that I've never had the opportunity to ask a professional, um, I wanted to talk to you about your, um, industrial hygienist certification and what that looks like and why you would want to have a, um, certified industrial hygienist, um, designation.
Sure. Okay. Answer that general then specific that the general is just professional credentialing in general. I'm a big fan of particularly for early career professionals. You know, it's, if it's the C I H or the CSP, or, you know, the PE or the, or the FPE, you know, in our field, uh, what that, that says to, you know, employers, what it says to, uh, the employees that you may may be interacting with is that, you know, Hey, this, this person by.
Education examination and experience, uh, has, you know, the ability to, to perform this task. Um, so it, it's kind of a, a warranty in some respects that, that the person who holds these different credentials, you know, has obviously had education in the field, has taken an exam to show that they've retained it.
And they all have minimum professional years of experience requirements. And so while it's not a, you know, silver bullet, this person knows what they're doing. Uh, but it certainly adds a level of credibility, uh, to your knowledge skillset. Now, the, the C uh, in particular, why would you want to have, uh, somebody with that background, uh, is really looking into these more complex, um, issues of.
Occupational exposure. Um, when I was, when I was working at Raytheon at, at the time, Ken Tierney was the head of the, of the, of the entire global EHS group. And, and he said that the CS, uh, that worked for him, uh, were the special forces of EHS. Um, which, you know, when you're dealing with radiation, either ionizing or non-ionizing, you're dealing with, how do you measure silica exposure in the microgram range or barium?
Uh, these sorts of things requires a very specialized, uh, skill set. Uh, and that's when you wanna bring in, uh, a certified hygienist, you know, the complexities of mold sampling, uh, and if, if we even should do mold sampling, all these sorts of things, uh, that's where you're gonna wanna bring in somebody, uh, with a C H wow.
That's a absolutely fabulous. Exposition on, uh, why you would want to have a professional designation as well as you know, um, more specific commentary on, um, the certified industrial hygienist, uh, role, the next thing that's kind of coming, um, Or we should talk about the PE you know, for those, those in your audience are very familiar with the PE and the fire protect engineer.
You know, that's not a certification that's licensure, which is kind of that next level. You know, that the, the licensure says, uh, there's an element of the public trust that's being placed upon you and your work, you know, that, that you have to calculate, uh, you know, with the classic one, the bridge, the bridge doesn't collapse, you know, from the civil side, but you know, same thing with fire protection engineer, you're gonna design the systems correctly to get the smoke out of the building, to get the adequate water supply, where it needs to, uh, to protect the public's, you know, safety in their life.
And, uh, there's a big push within the industrial hygiene community. To move the C into licensure, uh, because you are dealing with, with health, just like you're dealing with the nursing professions, uh, all these other medical professions that the C uh, there's a push to move towards licensure because of that public trust element.
Uh, when we're out there evaluating, you know, the asbestos in your home or asbestos in your school or business, uh, that there is a public trust that needs to be maintained with that particular skill set. That's a great note. Yeah, I see that. Um, I see that a lot of communities are moving towards, you know, um, pleasant requirements.
And so, yeah, I think that as far as, uh, fire and life safety goes, it, it seems like, um, that people are more interested. Um, as time goes on in, in buying in on professionals who are, you know, accredited. because of, you know, I just think there's greater focus on safety. Mm-hmm in society as we're, you know, moving on.
Yeah. The, I mean, the, the thing about licensure is it kind of goes back to that community and that social licensed operate it's the, the community can remove your ability to work, you know, to, to be able to, to do what you've been trained to do that. Uh, if you're not living up to their standards of either ethics or competence, uh, the community can remove your ability to, to work, um, which really adds to that next level.
And, and really, you know, you, you have to be competent and check your work and, and make sure you get it right. Yeah, I think that's a great thing. And, uh, you know, I always encourage people and that's kind of the reason why I ask the question is I want to encourage people to seek these, um, not only for their professional development, but also, you know, to ensure that we have qualified competent individuals doing this sort of work.
Um, but yeah. So in order to, you know, kind of put a incap on our discussion of your, you know, the incipients of your professional career and some of those roles, I just wanted to ask, I can remember quite a few, um, different, interesting stories that you told about your time at Raytheon and some of your other roles mm-hmm um, in environmental health and safety.
And I just wanted to know if you had a particular, uh, project or a story about, uh, um, just to time in your career that you would wanna share. Sure. I, I think you look at challenges, you know, what were those challenges that you overcame and, and you can, you know, when you get through it, you do kind of a touchdown dance.
And, uh, for me, working with Raytheon, being in, uh, doing like a lot of aircraft, um, type electronics, aircraft parts, um, and anything in military corrosion is a huge issue. You know, you, you don't want your, uh, electronics or your weapon systems or anything like that, you know, corroding as they're, you know, getting salt spray on them from a, you know, while it's sitting on an aircraft carrier or sand and dust, uh, out in the desert.
And so to prevent that the, the, basically the gold standard technology is to apply various processes that use hexvalent chromium, uh, as a corrosion inhibitor on, uh, particularly aluminum. Uh, the issue is that the, the one that works the best Tron chromate, uh, and all CHRO mates in general are carcinogenic and Tron chromate is particularly strong, uh, carcinogen.
And so, uh, there's this again, this ongoing issue. Well, how do we paint these, these parts and put it on and protect the workers that are doing that. But then also when these things go into the field and they need repair work, and someone has to sand the paint off that they're getting exposed to these ch mates.
And so there's been a big push, both within OSHA and within the D O D to remove hexvalent chromium, uh, from these product lines. Um, or if you can't remove it, then you have to implement some, some incredibly, um, expensive engineering controls to protect the. And so I worked on a project to try to remove, uh, hexavalent chromium from a particular product line, uh, that we had, um, well in advance of when, uh, the regulations were changing.
Um, and, and it was a great thing from both a business perspective and a health perspective, because basically when, when the re legislation came out from OSHA and changed the exposure limit, uh, dramatically, uh, you, you kind of had a couple choices. You could either spend all the money and come into compliance, or you could stop doing, uh, producing your part.
And if it caught you off guard, then, you know, while you retooled, you were gonna lose market share. And so I worked with our engineers. There are our product development engineers to qualify alternative primers, uh, for corrosion inhibition. And so testing lots of different primers with different manufacturers, putting them in, in salt fog, baths, and proving into our DOD customers that they worked and proving to our management.
It was gonna work and implemented the change before the OSHA regulation changed. And so when that happened, our business never stopped. We just, we just kept running. We didn't have to install showers and change facilities. We didn't have to install massive ventilation systems and airline respirators. Uh, you know, we we'd done the, the hard work, uh, ahead of.
And so we were able to switch that product line over to a chromate, uh, a trivalent chromium, uh, much less, uh, toxic and keep the business up and running with no, no disruption in, uh, production. And so that was just one of those ones that I really, really liked, um, for my career. It was hands on. It was just, this was back when I was, you know, an engineer before I was a, a manager.
And you kind of, you kind of miss that when you, when you get into to management, you tend to do a whole lot more politicing and paper pushing than actually solving problems. Uh, and so that was, was one of the, the last real nitty gritty problems. I got my hands dirty on and, and was able to fix. And I really enjoyed that.
That's awesome. It's so hard as, uh, you know, safety professionals to, um, tie back into. The, uh, dollar amount of, you know, conducting business. Mm-hmm , I think that that's a great success story on, you know, how you provided value to the company and how you mitigated business interruption and, um, what, uh, somebody who excels at their role can do, I wanted to transition into your, um, time at, at OSU.
And I know from experience that you have, um, that you're, you know, a good order and that you're, you know, good at explaining things and, and that you have passion for it, but how did you find that out? So it's, it's kind of an interesting story. Um, and several, several years before, before I even really started thinking about it, uh, I had, you know, colleagues, um, not necessarily within, in the EHS department, uh, at great, but in, in the facilities department and other these groups that I worked with that, you know, Trying to explain, well, why are we doing this?
Why, why are we changing out all this Hexa chromium stuff? And, and, you know, so I go through an explanation and, uh, I ended up getting the nickname, professor wizard and people kept telling me, you, you know, you should, you should be a professor. Uh, and it just kept coming up. You know, I, I worked at different sites.
I moved around the country and just kept, you know, Hey, you should be a professor. And, uh, it was, it was one of those things. It was kind of the back of mind, you know, I, I do kind of like teaching. I mean, I obviously did a lot of training as a EHS professionally. You have to do a lot of training up in front of people and talking.
And, um, I enjoyed it. I also enjoy the, the aspect of being a professor where you do research, right? You ask questions and you try to solve these problems again, kind of getting back to being an engineer and not just a manager and. The two things kind of coincided together. One, uh, the amount of travel I was starting to do was getting, uh, ridiculous.
um, you know, when, when my son turned two years old, I had spent a quarter of his life in Australia and not even counting all my other business travel and it, so that was just starting to wear on me. It's like, gosh, you know, I kind of kind of wanna be home a bit more. Sure. And, uh, you know, I knew, uh, Dr.
Laga who was the, uh, department head at the time he's former department head, uh, of the fire picture program. He's also a C we knew each other from, from conference and, uh, things like that. And he called me up one day and said, Hey, I kind of hear you, you, you might be interested in being a professor. And I said, well, yeah, I kind of am.
I said, well, why don't you apply for the job and come to interview? And so I did, I guess, as they say, the rest is history, so nice, you know, gave up the, the corporate life and, uh, came up here to. To be an educator and a researcher and it's been fantastic. That's awesome. Yeah. I think it takes a special kind of person to, you know, I found this out of my professional career, um, you know, being an entry level professional that, you know, uh, the role of mentorship and, uh, somebody who wants to take the time to teach somebody is not innate.
And so I think it takes a special kind of person to want to be a mentor and also, you know, an even more, uh, extreme as, uh, somebody who wants to, you know, be a professor and really make that their, their livelihood. So, yeah. That's fascinating. Thank you. So, yeah, so I'm extremely excited to talk to you about, you know, just for those who don't know, um, what is the, um, fire protection degree at OSU?
Um, you know, what, yeah, what kind of does that entail? For somebody who might be looking to, you know, get higher education in the field of fire and life safety. Okay. Well, the, the program itself is, um, been around a while. It's actually the, the oldest, uh, fire protection program in north America. Um, the, the program itself started in 1937, though, kind of the, the beginnings of, of OSU involvement in fire and, and safety go back to the early thirties and started out as a, as a two year degree, kind of started training training firefighters, but really it was started to, uh, out of insurance and, and people wanting, uh, insurance, wanting some, some unified tactics for fire suppression.
And, you know, how do we coordinate some of these things for people coming from different places to, to fight fire, and then it kind of. Had a little metamorphosis from the insurance side to, Hey, how, instead of just being really good at putting out fire, uh, how do we prevent it? And so the, the program kind of took on that change that really started moving towards the fire prevention, what we think of now as fire protection engineering.
Uh, and it did that for many years, um, until, um, the early seventies, uh, when the OSHA act was passed. And, um, you know, some, some leaders in the program had some, some foresight and said, you know, this is, this is the next thing. And it's important and we should, we should adapt to it. And at that point, uh, a four year degree, um, was put in place and it blended, uh, both fire protection and safety.
And so when you look at the name, uh, a lot of people just shorten it to fire protection, but you know, it's fire protection and safety engineering technology. And so it blends both which. In some ways people go, well, why wouldn't you wanna just be, you know, really good at one thing. And I, I think what we see is that the, the diversity of these two are very complimentary that in all cases, if you are dealing with fire, you're gonna be dealing with safety and, and vice versa.
Now your, your particular roles may be different. You know, like for me, my fire background or what I, I did industry for fire was from a owner's perspective. How do we maintain systems? How do we inspect them? You know, making sure they're installed, you know, correctly and affordably and all that versus doing the design side, uh, flip that around, you know, if you look at like Dr.
Charter who's here, she was on the fire engineering side, but when you're out doing, um, Qualifications, you know, when you, when you install the system and you're out doing the, the acceptance testing and stuff, you know, there's lots of safety aspects have to be taken care of. There's people up on, on ladders.
You can get, uh, Legionella inside the, the water of the sprinkler pipes you're need to do smoke, dispersion calculations and things like that. Uh, you end up doing a, a real blend of fire and safety. When you're looking at your, uh, hazardous materials, inventory statements, you know, you have to know where all the chemicals in your facility are, what are all those hazard, uh, categories, sum them all up, figure out occupancy limits, all these sorts of things for the fire code.
And then you turn around and EPA wants to know all of those for your toxic release inventory and for your tier two. And, uh, and those sorts of things. So it doesn't matter which career you pick as your emphasis. You're gonna be doing a, a lot of crossover into both. And so I think that's the real.
Advantage of this degree versus a pure safety degree or a pure fire degree, is that diversity? Uh, it, it adds more value to your employer. I think it helps, uh, helps you when it comes to, uh, recessions and layoffs. Uh, you know, the more skills you have, the more things you can do, uh, the better position that, that puts a person in to protect them from those things.
And, and in general, I think it just makes you a better professional. The more well-rounded. Without a doubt without a doubt. Yeah. I mean, to your point, uh, I'm on the design side of things, uh, in engineering and construction design, and I've had so many instances in which, you know, we have to, uh, assess hazardous materials and, you know, determine if we are in the, you know, maximum allowable quantity for a facility or a control area and provide documentation of that, um, hazard.
So yeah, like you said, you really can't escape it if, even if you are just on the design side of things, mm-hmm, , there is a lot of overlap. So I think that's a great point. Yeah. Also in just like the, the job resiliency aspect of it. I mean, there's, it's a huge, um, I mean there, there are two good job markets and I mean, yeah, I think having options is an excellent, um, pro to the program at OSU.
But so I just wanted to, and I mean, you don't have to go into, uh, in depth on it cuz I know if somebody really wants to find out they could Google the, you know, the course description and find that online. But I just wanted to ask you to, you know, speak about a little bit more in detail, what the, um, different courses are inside the program for somebody who might be interested in looking at going to OSU.
Sure. Uh, so we, we start you out with base a survey class, uh, it's our intro class, and you're gonna learn about fire safety, uh, industrial hygiene and just study the historic fires and why we have fire codes. You'll study the historic safety incidents and, and why we have process safety management standards and, and things like that to kind of first let you know, like, this is why we're here.
This is the type of stuff you're gonna be working on and trying to prevent, uh, introduce you to codes, uh, because if, if you can't, you know, I don't wanna say handle, but if, if the idea of spending a lot of time examining, uh, the fire code and, and the OSHA standards, uh, drives you absolutely bonkers, uh, we want you to know early, so you can find something that matches your skill set better, but we're gonna give you that survey and say, you know, if you're here, you wanna protect life, property environment, uh, this interests you then, okay, let's, let's move on.
And then the next class you'll take freshman year, your freshman year is our systems fire protection systems class, get in there and, and work with sprinklers and alarms and, and really learn like the hardware. And this is really part of the technology degree. This is engineering technology, not, not pure engineering.
Uh, we want you to have that hands on experience with the equipment, uh, not that you're gonna be an installer. Uh, but we want you to be able to know what quality workmanship looks like. We want to teach you ways that a contractor might cheat you. Um, and so when you're also so that when you're reading the codes, you understand what it means when it's talking about a jockey pump, right?
And, and what does it do? And you can actually see it and understand it in a very tangible way that kind of sets your foundation. You'll take an introductory safety course too, which will, you know, we'll put you in a confined space and we'll put you in a fall rest lanyard. And those sorts of things, again, introduce you to the OSHA standards and, and how to read them as well as get some of that hands on application of what do these things really do in, in, in real life.
And you know, why your, your six foot lanyard, uh, you know, how far you're gonna fall and, and how high you need to be before fall. Protection's effective, things like that. That kind of sets the, the foundation there in your, your lower, um, division classes. And then from there, we, we keep ramping up, uh, you know, you get more math, you get more engineering, uh, either be on, you know, you're gonna take statics and, uh, thermodynamics, uh, then you're gonna on the, on the, the core side, you know, industrial hygiene is a very mathematic, uh, heavy class, uh, with exposure assessment and then process safety, you know, getting into more, uh, complex safety things.
Then you'll take fire dynamics to really understand how fire moves. And I think that's probably the, one of the bigger changes from, you know, some of our alumni from, you know, 10 or 20 years ago, you know, moving away from a lot of the system stuff into these bigger ideas of fire dynamics and how smoke moves in a building.
You take smoke control class, uh, getting into the more advanced engineering. And then you'll take a, uh, we used to call it the loss prevention class. Uh, now it's, uh, a risk engineering class where we're gonna pull it all together and put you out into a facility and look at comprehensive. What are the fire issues?
What are the safety issues? What are the hygiene issues? What are the environmental issues and a real building? We do numerous tours of actual factories and hospitals and libraries, other commercial buildings. You have to put your eyes on and see what are the risks? What are the controls, uh, really trying to get you ready, uh, to go out the door in how we finish that off is with the senior design project or the capstone where you and a couple O other students are gonna be on a team for two semesters, trying to tackle, uh, a kind of an entry level research project.
It's not, it's not just something we can go to the code book and you've got a, a cookie cutter solution for it's. Well, we need to go find out some things. We need to do some small experiments and read some scientific literature and be able to come up with a solution so that when you are out in the workplace and you know, that hex, Ava chromium issue comes up, uh, you have those skills to be able to go out and evaluate a problem, come up with solutions, work through some validation that it's actually gonna be effective.
Uh, those sorts of things. And that's really where we kind of, at that point, we think you're ready to go out the door in the industry and be a, you know, a really good con. That's great. Yeah. A couple points I, I really resonate with is, you know, personally I have a huge interest in systems. And so the technology piece of the program at OSU is, is proven to be, uh, really invaluable, um, during my time as, uh, doing design for a fire suppression contractor.
And also now as a fire protection engineer that does construction documents, you know, having that, um, entry level knowledge of the system components and how they interact and kind of, uh, what the overall architecture looks like for, uh, fire protection system is that puts you leaks ahead of somebody who comes into that role without the, you know, the background of the program.
So I think that's great. And then, yeah, also to add on to what you said about the capstone, um, I think the Capstone's really great because not only is it, uh, something that you get to have, uh, Somewhat of a say in determining, you know, uh, what you're investigating and kind of the problem that you're looking to solve.
But also you can use that as a, a, a component to sell yourself to, um, your employer, um, that you're looking to get a offer from on the way out of school. You know, if, if that corresponds to the field in which you are looking to, uh, find a job in. So certainly, yeah, I really like that too. I wanted to also ask about, um, yeah.
How have you seen the curriculum evolve at OSU since your time there? You know, I'm, I feel lucky. I got to be, uh, you and Virginia. Uh, I got to be, um, one of the first round of students that had you as professor, I think, yeah, I think I was entering some of the classes on your, uh, first go through 'em mm-hmm but, uh, I really enjoyed you both, but yeah, I just wanted to.
Uh, pick your brain on the topic of kind of how the curriculum and, you know, the professionals that your help training for the next generation of fire and life safety professionals, how that's kind of changed. Yeah. The, the curriculum is, is always evolving. Uh, you know, I think, you know, some of our alumni probably are listening and, you know, they have a idea of what it was like and, you know, they, they think it should never change.
And, um, you know, and another alumni who are, you know, definitely out there that are on our advisory board, you know, they're out there in industry and they're hiring our graduates, say, Hey, we need, we need this skill set. We need to add this skillset. And I think the hardest thing to do that we really kind of struggle with between the faculty and the advisory board is, yeah, we need, we need to add these skill sets.
What do we have to get rid of? You know, uh, we can't, we can't just keep adding hours to the curriculum. We have to choose what's there. So I think what you're seeing is, uh, less. Emphasis on, uh, I would say more the daily kind of tasks in environmental health and safety. You know, we're not gonna tear apart an extinguisher and, and inspect the inside of the, of an extinguisher anymore.
Uh, you know, that used to be a huge part of, of 12, 13. Uh, and at the time it was absolutely necessary. It was, I was all, you know, a big part of the, the role. Uh, but now employers are, are looking for, um, something a bit different, you know, they want, you know, fire extinguisher inspection. They want that turnkey from a vendor.
Uh, that's not something they want a, an in-house, uh, person to be doing. And you know, what they want really is, uh, the ability to evaluate risk, uh, in, in whatever kind of nature that risk may be. Uh, it could be a fire risk. It could be a safety risk. It could be a business continuity risk, or a business interruption risk.
Uh, and they want someone that can come in and evaluate risk across many domains, uh, and be able to develop solutions for that, uh, to, to mitigate it. And so even on, on the design side, you know, if you're designing a system, uh, that fundamentally still holds, you know, we're, we're evaluating risks now on the fire side using modeling, you know, we're looking at evacuation models, we're looking at smoke models, we're looking at fire growth models, uh, which, you know, 20 years ago, we didn't even have any of the tools to be able to do that.
But now, as, as computers have gotten, uh, much better as we've our programming of those computers and our tools for numeric methods have gotten better, uh, we're able to go in and, and simulate things in the virtual space with pretty good accuracy. Uh, obviously there's a lot of universities out there that are trying to validate those models.
Uh, more and more so that we can use them, but that's what we're looking at. It's how do we have graduates that are up to date with the latest technology that are using the, the most current tools to be able to manage, uh, these risks that are out there in, in the real world? That's great. Yeah. I like what you ended with on that last part about, you know, uh, being able to pick up these, these new tools and technology.
I mean, I, I've seen a lot of, uh, increase or uptick in, uh, people speaking about performance based design and kind of some of these, um, modeling technique techniques as a, uh, tool in your belt to be creative when problem solving mm-hmm for some of these fire and life safety, uh, hazards. So I think that's a great point.
So also I wanted to say, you know, um, or just kind of, uh, touch on as well about, you know, What you see as trending in, you know, those who are hiring, um, fire and life safety professionals right now, I'm sure there are, um, a lot of people who are interested in that topic, uh, with the current climate of the, the pandemic and just, you know, um, businesses in general kind of struggling mm-hmm
Yeah. So I think employers, what, what we're seeing, uh, they, they want, uh, a few things out of graduates. Um, one that that's always, um, or at least we always hit the comment back that our graduates are able to hit the ground running the first day in the job that we don't have to spend a year training them to do their jobs.
And that's the commodity that I think employers want, you know, training is expensive. Um, and I'm not saying that our graduates don't go out and get on the job training. Uh, it's just that they want. A new hire to be productive as soon as possible. And so doing things such as these industry tours and, and writing reports to, to the people that, that host these tours, doing these senior design projects, being able to present a product gets you so much closer, you know, on day one and being able to go out, evaluate a problem, come up with a solution, present it, you know, being turnkey.
That's what they're, they're really looking for. And you need to, to couple that with work ethic, you know, they, they want people that are gonna show up and actually work. Uh, you know, I understand work is a four letter word that ends in K. Uh, but you gotta get it done, you know, uh, and so I think the third piece is they want you to be as error free, uh, as possible.
You know, you you've gotta check your work. You need to have somebody peer review your work. Um, Which is one of those things that, that in your career, people need to really develop those relationships that you can have somebody check your work. Uh, so that we, you know, we don't have a, uh, a satellite probe that goes to Mars and crashes into it because we use standard units instead of SI units.
Um, you know, there, there's a whole list and list of these, these, you know, very high profile goofs, uh, but even small ones, you know, I, I kind of qu to my students when they take my industrial hygiene exams, that it's okay. If they get a wrong answer, no, one's gonna get cancer at this time. Uh, you know that, but when you're out there in the real world, these calculations have to be right, or someone will get, you know, potentially get hearing loss or cancer, or, you know, the sprinkler, system's not gonna work as, as needed.
And so, yeah. You know, that's what the employers are looking for, you know, be able to hit the ground running work hard and, and be as error free as possible. Yeah. That's great points. Yeah. It, something that I saw, uh, In, uh, fire suppression, you know, the okay state program, uh, kind of helped me not need as much, um, teaching for, you know, what is an FBA 13 and how is it laid out?
And mm-hmm, , you know, what are those components? So I can see how, um, being able to hit the ground running and, and not needing, um, months or of training in order to, you know, at least take steps in the right direction would be incredibly valuable. Mm-hmm I wanted to touch on some professional development topics because, uh, in, in my short career, I've definitely, um, had some good advice from you.
Uh, you know, I think I was looking at, you know, accepting my, one of my first jobs and I was talking to, we were taking a, a field trip with you and, uh, uh, Brian Hoskins, uh, and, uh, we were talking on the bus. I was looking at a couple different offers for getting outta school. And I was like, well, you know, uh, what, what should I do?
You know, this one is worth X dollars and, and this one is worth, you know, Y dollars. Um, you know, and you guys both kind of looked at me and you were like, well, you know, you really need to, you know, address these things for what's the, what's the best, um, place to learn. And you know, what the structure around you is gonna be, you know?
Yes, the dollar number is compelling and you gave a speech about, you know, where you start in your career is important, but, um, yeah. So I just wanna say, thanks for that piece of advice. It, it didn't serve me wrong in my career. And then also ask, uh, you know, what is, uh, do you have a piece of advice for, um, fire and life safety professionals that you would like to issue as well?
Sure. So, yeah, so I'll definitely emphasize that point that for our new grads, new hires, even people, you know, if you've been at your job for a while and you're ready for something new. And you, you have multiple offers that, you know, it's always, it's always tempting to just look at the money. Um, but you know, sometimes those jobs that pay a lot of money are, are doing so because they're, they're gonna be, you know, maybe incredibly demanding or they can't get people to, to stay.
And so what I encourage, all of, all of my students to do is when they're, when they are fortunate to have, you know, two or three offers is I say, location can change, right? The money will come, but it's your boss, which of those three, do you wanna work for which one's gonna mentor you, which one's gonna help advance your career?
Uh, you know, that's, that's where you want to go. Uh, because if you get the right mentor, They're gonna try to help get you promoted, right. If you're doing the job right. And they're doing good, a good mentor, a good boss wants to see you Excel. You know, when I was at, at Raytheon, I was always worried about trying to move out of the way of the people that were underneath me that were coming up.
And so that's what you wanna look for, uh, that just, I think the, the best career advice, cuz you know, if you've got a terrible boss, your life's gonna be miserable. You know, you spend, you know, most of your waking hours, uh, at work. And so if it's a miserable experience, then life is miserable. Uh, so really focus on, on, who's gonna be your boss and, and what are they gonna be able to, or do they have the right attitude to say that attitude of a teacher, the attitude of a mentor, um, take care of you, uh, you know, kind of in that.
That's great. Yeah. That, uh, definitely, you know, especially in your early career where you're gonna be spending a lot of time learning, um, making sure that you're in a position to have somebody who can, uh, facilitate that, um, uh, startup energy that it takes for every professional to, you know, kind of come to fruition.
Uh, it's important to have that. So I think that's a great point. Also. I just wanted to ask, um, you're someone who is well informed and just like, what kind of resources would you recommend to, um, students or professionals, you know, um, it could be technical or just kind of, um, business driven. I always like to ask this, um, ask this question because everybody kind of has their place where they get, um, professional information or, you know, kind of their, I don't wanna say news, but, you know, keeping.
An idea of what's happening in the industry, but right. Yeah. So I, I encourage my students. I encourage this for professionals and all of your listeners as well is that you need to be involved in your professional society. So if you're on, on the fire protect engineering side, society of fire protection engineers, you should be a member.
If you're a safety person, it should be, uh, you know, the, uh, society of safety professionals. If you are an additional hygienist, it's the American Hy association. You need to be involved. Uh, you're gonna get at a minimum, you know, email alerts about what's happening. Uh, you'll probably get some kind of periodical from them.
They may also have an academic journal that you may want to, uh, subscribe to, but they all put on a conference as well. And I strongly encourage you to go to a conference. Even if you're not certified, everybody with certifications needs to go to these things for their professional development points. Uh, so you're kind of forced into that, but even if you're not forced into it, I encourage you to go to the conference and participate.
Don't don't just pay your money, go, go there. And then, you know, sit at the Tiki bar, uh, the whole time go to the sessions, learn what's coming up. What's new, what's what's challenging. Uh, and the reason is cuz you're gonna figure out where you can leapfrog your, uh, your peers, not, not just even just your peers, those that have a lot more experience than you.
So this is, this is really apt for, for early career professionals. You know, I figured out early on, uh, in the additional hygiene realm that, you know, asbestos is a big deal, but there's no way I'm going to catch up to these experts that have spent their career 30 years dealing with asbestos. Um, you can't overcome that learning curve.
And so it's not a fair fight to try to, you know, advance along that path. However, if something new is Ari, a new hazard or a new issue, uh, arises, uh, now you're on a level playing field. And so for me, it was arc flash, uh, arc flash started becoming a big deal. It really had not been something that, that had been addressed very well across industry.
And, you know, I saw it at a conference and then I went and took some professional development classes on it, started working with our electrical engineers and, and maintenance personnel electricians, and became, you know, the arc flash guy. And, you know, you pick a few of those, you know, kind of with hexavalent Chrome was, was the other one.
And with arc flash, you pick a few of these, um, electromagnetic energy was another one, uh, RF, uh, Where sometimes these things are, are perceived as hard. And so some of your peers, new, new young professionals don't wanna take it on because it's hard. The older professionals they've already got their, their, their niche and they're happy and they don't wanna necessarily, uh, take on anymore.
And that's where you can, can latch onto these things become, you know, that subject matter expert within the company. And that's when you're gonna start getting sent, you know, traveling to other sites, being that SME for them, getting that exposure to corporate. And that's how you're gonna be able to, to make yourself known and, and climb the ladder.
And so that's where I think the real, the sweet spot is, is, is looking, going to conferences, finding up the up and coming risks and hazards or threats, latching onto those and becoming that SME for your organiz. that's great. That's a great point because, you know, I see a lot of professionals and now is this way as well, you know, really hungry to, uh, make a difference and, you know, kind of level up in their career.
And I think that's a solid takeaway for what you can do as a professional to make yourself competitive. So I really like that point. So Rob, I just wanted to, you know, um, end with, uh, something that, uh, has always kind of interests me in the same vein of what we just talked about with, um, knowing about what's happening in the industry and keeping your finger on the pulse of the kind of, not really up and coming hazards, but the new hazards that we're finding out who, how to address and, you know, Manage better, but yeah.
What do you see as a, a meaningful trend in, in fire and life safety? I'd love to hear about that. So I, I don't know if it's a, if it's a hazard, uh, per se or upcoming hazard, but it is something I find. Um, I used thematically interesting, uh, in the, on the fire protection side. Uh, even though that's not my, my main emphasis, you know, from a, uh, an owner operator kind of perspective in, in fire protection.
Uh, one of the things that just destroys your budget are the periodic inspections. You know, if you think about, if you have a, you know, facility, you know, I was at Raytheon, we had several facilities with over a million square feet under roof. That's a lot of fire extinguishers to inspect. Uh, so there's a lot of cost in those.
And what I'm seeing that I find interesting is the trend towards the automation of fire protection inspections. You know, there are, you know, and. P 10 was changed. I don't know. It's more than a dozen years ago now to allow for self inspecting or automated inspection of, uh, fire extinguishers for their monthlys.
And we're seeing it now on, uh, the water, uh, water paddle switches, water flow switches in fire, uh, protection systems that they can, they have a, you know, a little screw worm drive that can push the paddle and, and initiate the signal. Uh, and so this increasing automation that helps with reliability, but also at the same time is reducing, uh, labor and cost so that, you know, not that I'm advocating that we go out and, you know, lay off everybody because we now have automated inspection, but it then allows that, uh, labor force then to go do other risk mitigation, uh, activities.
And so I find that as a, a real boon, uh, you know, as, as we're, you know, always trying to become more efficient, uh, with our resources, you know, in industry that, uh, if we can get some of these tasks automated, uh, then we can do things that require, you know, human know how, uh, to be able to do that, to mitigate risk and make things, you know, essentially better.
Uh, and that's a, I think is a really exciting trend and, and I hope it continues, uh, in that direct. Oh, yeah. I have no doubt that automation and the, uh, kind of remote inspection, tidal wave that's coming down, the pipeline is, uh, not stopping mm-hmm . I had the opportunity to speak to somebody who was on the new NFPA committee for remote inspections and, uh, yeah, it's, it's really interesting what, um, people are doing, um, to, uh, you know, basically add an advantage of, um, cost effectiveness to the, uh, required ITM.
And I think it provides more reliable ITM in a lot of instances. Mm-hmm I think it's a win all around. There's a lot of pencil going on out there. Oh yeah. Oh yeah. I think that, uh, if we can automatically do it and then also what you said, you know, there's a time and a place for, um, remote inspections and it's, it's not for, for every, uh, instance and it's not for, for every, uh, ITM task, but certainly I think in the right application, it's really powerful.
So I like that point. Um, well, Rob, I just wanted to be, uh, mindful of your time and just say that it's been an absolute honor to talk to you and I really enjoyed it, but, uh, yeah. Thank you for coming on the show. It's been great. It's great. Catching up with you. I appreciate the invitations and, uh, wish you all the best.
This is a, this is great, great podcast. Glad you're doing it. Thanks. Thanks for listening everybody. Be sure to share the episode with a friend, if you enjoyed it, don't forget that fire protection and life safety is serious business. The views and opinions expressed on this podcast are by no means a professional consultation or a codes and standards interpretation.
Be sure to contact a licensed professional. If you are getting involved with fire protection and or life safety. Thanks again. And we'll see you next time.