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June 18, 2012

New ULM degree strives to improve workplace safety

The University of Louisiana at Monroe Department of Toxicology developed a new certification program focused on occupational health.

The desired result is safer work environments, said John Herrock, M.S., ULM toxicology instructor and industrial hygienist.

"This new program will provide a local and regional resource for health, safety, and toxicology education. This is especially important to small or family-owned businesses, which may not have the resources to send their employees to large cities such as Houston, Dallas, or New Orleans for the training."

Today in Baton Rouge, the University of Louisiana System Board of Supervisors approved ULM’s Post-Baccalaureate Certificate in Occupational Health, Safety, and Toxicology.

The new program emphasizes occupational health and safety as opposed to mechanical or fire safety.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) 4,690 employees suffered fatal accidents during 2010. In fact, an average of more than 12 employees per day die at work.

A review of OSHA's Weekly Fatality Report indicates that many of these fatalities occur at small or family-owned businesses.

BLS also indicates that more than 1.2 million employees suffered work-related injuries significant enough to require time away from work during 2010.

The program will begin with general—but important—courses, and as the certificate program evolves, faculty will develop a set of courses designed to meet the needs of businesses in north Louisiana and southern Arkansas, said Kevin Baer, Ph.D., ULM professor and department chair of toxicology.

"The B.S. degree in toxicology is already unique in that it is only one of seven programs in the country. The new certificate program administered within the Department of Toxicology would provide additional opportunities for our newly graduating students as they prepare to enter the job market."

The certificate program will appeal to a variety of professionals, such as human resources personnel, job supervisors, landscape workers, engineers, and more.

ULM President Nick J. Bruno said, "This program continues our focus on regional and state-wide needs. Being the only toxicology bachelor's degree in the southeastern United States, it is imperative that this expertise is utilized to better meet the needs of our state."

The program is designed for individuals who have already earned a baccalaureate degree.

To learn more about the proposed program, contact Baer at or 318-342-1698.

The toxicology program is housed within ULM's College of Pharmacy.

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