My experience in BWC’s Safety Leaders Fellowship Program

By Meleesha Hodge, BWC Occupational Safety & Hygiene Fellow

After graduating from the University of Cincinnati in 2018, I struggled to figure out what career path was right for me. I had obtained my Bachelor of Science degree in biological sciences but did not have much experience in that field. I knew to thrive in the job market I would need to develop skills and gain experience.

I was grateful to have the opportunity to work for BWC’s Division of Safety & Hygiene (DSH) as part of the Safety Leaders Fellowship Program*. During my time as an Occupational Safety & Hygiene Fellow, I’ve had the pleasure of shadowing and learning from BWC safety consultants, ergonomists, and industrial hygienists on about 85 consultative safety visits.

Some visits were on-site at Ohio employers, and since March 2020, I have assisted with virtual consultations. During these visits I actively participated in the delivery of DSH programs, products, and services to employers. I progressed from helping with pre-visit planning and employer research to making field observations, answering employer questions, making recommendations, and writing post-visit reports and correspondence. Each consultant I shadowed had their own unique way of how they did their jobs and shared their expertise with me whenever they had the chance.

Training and education are important aspects of this program. I completed more than 23 educational readings, more than 15 in-class trainings, and about 18 online courses within the first year, all centered around safety and health topics. After learning more about safety topics, I worked with BWC’s Education and Training Services staff members to create and revamp online training courses. One course I was particularly involved with revising focuses on preventing cuts and lacerations. This course educates employers on this topic and ultimately can reduce the number of claims from these types of injuries.

Meleesha Hodge performs a slip meter test that measures the coefficient of friction to determine if a floor or walkway is safe for use.

DSH managers assigned different projects to me that pertained to fulfilling DSH’s aim of making Ohio workplaces safer and healthier for the employer and their employees. For example, for the 2020 Safety Innovation Awards, I served as a project lead and coordinated meetings, took meeting minutes, and participated in semifinalist site visits and scoring of the innovations. For another project to promote health awareness, I had the opportunity to create the Wellness Wednesday Tips featured on BWC’s social media pages that highlight current health issues in the U.S. A few of the topics I prepared tips for were childhood obesity, fall prevention, and breast cancer awareness.

In my second year, I expressed interest in helping with BWC’s health and wellness initiatives and my supervisor created a great development plan to get me more involved in that specific area. That evolved into me joining our department’s internal wellness team, where I assisted by creating health bulletins and developing health activities for our staff members. In addition, I worked on projects for BWC’s Better You, Better Ohio!® health and wellness program. I realized my passion for health and wellness and am now pursuing my master’s degree in public health with a concentration in social and behavioral sciences online through the University of Florida.

Working for BWC has helped me find my passion and gave me the necessary knowledge and skills to move forward in this ever-changing workforce. I will be forever grateful for this opportunity to not only help save the lives of Ohio workers but to also discover a career path that would truly bring me joy!

*The Safety Leaders Fellowship Program provides recent college graduates in the fields of occupational safety and health, engineering, industrial hygiene, and/or physical/ natural sciences an opportunity to receive on-the-job training to build a professional career in the fields of occupational safety and health, ergonomics, industrial hygiene and risk management. Selected candidates are offered a two-year project/contractual position where they receive hands-on and classroom training along with mentoring and coaching by highly experienced professionals in all areas of occupational safety and health.