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Environmental Safety and Health Students Excel in Internships with Bernalillo County

Last week was a momentous time for former CNM student Justin Vigil. Not only did he graduate with his associate's degree in Environmental Safety and Health (ESH), he also completed his probationary period as a safety specialist with the Bernalillo County Risk Management Department. Here's how it all happened.

Sep 07, 2016

Justin Vigil
Last week was a momentous time for former CNM student Justin Vigil. Not only did he graduate with his associate's degree in Environmental Safety and Health (ESH), he also completed his probationary period as a safety specialist with the Bernalillo County Risk Management Department. Here's how it all happened.

Over the past few terms, the ESH program in the School of Math, Science & Engineering has established a working relationship with the Risk Management Department of the Bernalillo County Government. A series of CNM students have served as safety specialist interns for the county. The three-credit internships require students to work 45 hours during the term on a variety of safety-related projects.

Joe Crelier, Loss Control Administrator for Bernalillo County, supervises the internship program as well as overseeing safety for all county employees under Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulations.

"We give 'Tailgate Talks' to our employees on a different safety topic each month and provide the OSHA 10-hour courses in General Industry and Construction several times a year," he said. "To maximize OSHA compliance, the teachers need qualifications. These safety specialist positions were hard to fill, but now CNM is supplying graduates with excellent credentials."

He goes on to say that, in addition to safety, there are plenty of environmental opportunities for ESH students with the county and elsewhere.

Originally from Pecos in northern New Mexico, Justin Vigil enrolled in the School of Applied Technologies at then-TVI, earning certificates in Residential Wiring and Electrical Trades; one of his favorite instructors was Sam Lovelette.

"After the housing market dried up, I decided to come back to school at CNM," he said. He chose ESH on the advice of his father, who worked for many years as OSHA director for the state of New Mexico.

During his internship, Justin created and delivered a Tailgate Talk on safe forklift operation; he already had expertise on this subject, having worked with forklifts for three years. He also conducted investigations of accidents in the workplace and performed safety evaluations for facilities and procedures. Now that he's a regular employee, he's continuing his education, adding certifications from the U.S. Department of Labor, the Federal Emergency Management Agency and other organizations. Eventually, Justin hopes to pursue a bachelor's degree in the field.

Flaviano Sanchez
Flaviano Sanchez, a current ESH student at CNM, is on track to receive his associate's degree this fall, along with a certificate in Water and Wastewater. Already a certified water operator from previous experience as a maintenance worker, he decided to further his education and get a degree to help advance in his career. He says he has always been interested in the environment and safety, and came to CNM based on word of mouth about the program and the school. After meeting with instructors Liyen Jong and Barry King, he decided to enroll.

He just completed his internship with the county. In addition to developing a Tailgate Talk on Protective Footwear Selection, his experience as an intern included assessing water damage from the "February Freeze." He also spent a day with a hydrologist from the county environmental department, performing a hazard analysis of his activities while monitoring a well in unincorporated land in the East Mountains.

"The intern experience was a chance to wet your feet, to understand what you need to do on the job," he said. Sounds like just the ticket for someone stepping into a career in water management.