Many people work in environments where appropriate occupational safety practices are essential. West Virginia University Extension’s Safety and Health Extension helps these workers get the training and education they need to be successful in their careers.
For John Reid, a safety specialist at the Sussex I and II State Prison Complex in Virginia, furthering his education wasn’t always easy. Due to lack of accommodations, it took him decades to finally be able to complete higher education courses thanks to the modifications and assistance provided by WVU Extension safety and health specialists.
Due to a seizure he suffered at a very young age, Reid lost 60% of his hearing. Because of this, he fully relies on lip-reading to understand the world around him. He describes it as hearing a constant buzzing all around. He can hear different voices coming from every direction, but he can’t make out what any of them are saying.
This has made education very difficult. From instructors who don’t write notes on the chalkboard, to classes full of students in lecture halls, there was always another obstacle in his way. And despite trying multiple times, Reid was never able to complete a higher education program.
“I have been to two different colleges trying to complete my degree, and both times, I had to withdraw due to lack of accommodations and overall poor communication,” said Reid. “So, for the last 30 years, I have stayed away from furthering my education.”
He was content being a maintenance supervisor at the prison; however, right before COVID-19 hit, nearly his entire department was laid off.
“I’m not going to lie, I was very nervous and scared. I didn’t know what my next step was going to be,” said Reid. “Whether I’d have a job at all, or if they were going to stick me in a position that I didn’t know anything about.”
Despite two months of uncertainty, he was offered a position as a safety manager at the same location soon after. But the catch was that he would have to be certified by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration – which meant giving education another go.
This is where the problems arose. OSHA certification required him to complete multiple courses and final exams. Would he be able to complete the courses needed? He’d tried many times before, so what would make this time different?
“I was really stressed out in the beginning,” Reid said. “My anxiety was through the roof knowing I had to take an exam in which I had to pass to receive the certification.”
While researching certification locations, he stumbled upon WVU Extension. Reid contacted the Safety and Health Extension team explaining his situation and hoping for the best.
He worked with Brandon Takacs, former WVU Extension specialist and past National Resource Center OSHA Training Institute Education Center director, to figure out how to create the most effective accommodations for his courses. Takacs set up pre-course meetings to ensure the live captioning and chat features worked seamlessly.
“We are committed to working with our students to ensure an overall outstanding learning experience,” said Takacs. “We simply try to provide a great user experience and pride ourselves on being attentive to our students’ needs.”
Reid stayed in contact with Takacs and other instructors throughout the duration of the courses to ensure he was getting all the information he needed to successfully learn the materials and complete the course. He says the whole team went the extra mile by sending him notes and essential information, helpful links, meeting transcripts and used the chat feature to make sure he was staying up to date.
Once it was time for the final exam, Reid passed with flying colors. He had finally accomplished what once felt impossible because of circumstances out of his control.
“I have that little card in my wallet, and it’s one of the most prideful things I’ve ever had,” said Reid. “I go around showing everyone, but they have no idea how much it means to me.”
Reid is now on his way to getting certified to teach OSHA courses himself. Once he finished his first class, he couldn’t wait to take the next and eventually be able to help others learn the way he was able to.
“I am appreciative that I can learn and feel confident that I can complete courses at the NRC-WVU OTIEC,” said Reid. “Due to their efforts and going the extra mile, I am more confident and ready for the next chapter in my journey with furthering my education in safety.”
Beyond OSHA education courses, WVU Extension Safety and Health Extension offers many other trainings and programs to help individuals lead safe, prosperous lives – including more than 40 OSHA courses covering everything from basic workplace safety to specialized safety trainings, as well as health care continuing education opportunities through the Shirley M. Kimble Training Center.
Each year, the OSHA Office of Training and Education reviews the OSHA Training Institute Education Centers. And, we are proud to announce that the National Resource Center - West Virginia University Extension, Safety and Health received an "exceptional" rating, based on the number of students trained, education courses and quality of instruction, among others.
To learn more about what WVU Extension Safety and Health Extension offers, visit https://extension.wvu.edu/community-business-safety/safety-health.
If you want to learn more about WVU Extension, visit extension.wvu.edu or follow @WVUExtension on Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and Instagram.
CONTACT: Sydney Keener