Michael Behm, Ph.D., CSP, is a professor of occupational safety at East Carolina University (ECU) in Greenville, NC, and coordinator of the Working Commission on Safety and Health in Construction for the International Council for Research and Innovation in Building and Construction (CIB W099) in the Netherlands. He has spent the past 18 years in academia facilitating the education of future safety professionals in ECU’s ABET-accredited graduate program. He was a safety and health professional for 10 years with Lenox China and Saint-Gobain, and has been a CSP since 1995. Mike holds a Ph.D. in Public Health from Oregon State, an M.S. in Environmental Health from Temple and a B.S. in Occupational Safety and Hygiene from Millersville.
Mike is a member of the NIOSH Board of Scientific Counselors and NIOSH's NORA Construction Sector Council. As an academic he has consulted and engaged in applied research projects domestically and internationally in Singapore, Australia and the U.K. Mike was awarded a Research Fellowship at the Centre for Urban Greenery and Ecology in Singapore focusing on safe design aspects of skyrise greenery systems and was a Visiting Research Fellow at RMIT University’s Centre for Construction Work Health and Safety in Melbourne, Australia. He has authored over 50 peer-reviewed publications and has been awarded over $350,000 in research and grant funding. His research products are impactful as evidenced by Google Scholar which shows over 1,750 citations of his work.
The multi-disciplinary nature of the occupational safety and health profession is both our key challenge and our most important strength. Are we engineers, technologists, health specialists, or something else? Is safety a stand-alone discipline? Should it be? The Society even changed its named to reflect this conundrum. Education should serve as a foundation to define the profession and research must shape an evidence-based practice. I believe in the interconnectedness between good research, critical thinking, and problem-solving skills developed in educational pursuits and high-quality OS practice. As an academic I believe firmly in the Scholar-Teacher model – engaging students in research and creative activity.
Another key challenge is that OS academic programs are not housed at research intensive universities. Being located within regional and teaching intensive state universities, OS programs do not have the capacity to produce sufficient new knowledge and innovative solutions to enable the profession to move forward as one would expect from University academic programs. Professional Safety’s April 2012 interview with safety pioneer John Girmaldi yields perspective into this dilemma where he calls into question the difference between ‘smaller’ and ‘high profile’ schools recommending “high-profile schools to offer programs to keep a focus on safety management”. The US needs a funded Center for Occupational Safety Research that is truly multi-disciplinary in nature, yet that recognizes that Occupational Safety is itself a stand-alone academic discipline. Too often the NIOSH ERC’s do not include safety or safety gets diluted in health and other related disciplines. A graduate from an ABET accredited OS school still has limited graduate degree pathway options that are based in OS research.
As VP of CoAAR I would work with the Council’s committees to influence the ASSP Board of Directors to focus on the quality – not the quantity – of educational and research outputs supported by ASSP.