SH&E Professor on Future of Safety Profession Post COVID-19

Lu Yuan Sc.D., CSP, Discusses How COVID-19 Has Affected the Future of SH&E

Published on Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Safety is in an interesting place. As safety professionals, we know that the safety, health, and environmental field is an ever-evolving discipline. But, rarely have things shifted so drastically so quickly. As critical a field as ever, workplace safety in the near future will evolve and be an increasingly crucial factor in ways that affect not only how we work but how we live. 
 

Lu Yuan Sc.D., CSP, is a Professor of Occupational Safety, Health, & Environment at Southeastern Louisiana University where he will educate his students through the unknowns of the immediate future, and the likely permanent changes of the long-term future. “COVID-19 has changed everything,” said Yuan. “It feels that the SH&E profession seems to be more important than ever.” He continued, “I think that this will continue to drive the force elevating SH&E as one of the core values for any kind of business.”

As for the long-term solutions to these current issues, Yuan sees remote instruction as a viable tool but one that relies on continued innovation, and a return to campus is viable only if the necessary steps are taken to eliminate risks with participation from all involved. “Remote instruction allows the continuation of teaching and learning. But the quality of remote instruction has to rely on many factors,” said Yuan. “Both teachers and students have to find more innovative ways for interactions,” he continued. 

In addition to being a professor, Yuan is the Qualified Academic Program (QAP) Coordinator for his program. He oversees the process of his students attaining the Graduate Safety Practitioner (GSP) designation from BCSP upon graduation. The GSP is a designation offered to graduates of certain SH&E programs, known as QAPS, (a list of which can be found at bcsp.org) that puts the holder on a path to obtaining the CSP—the gold standard of safety certification. It is free to apply and waives the requirement of needing the Associate Safety Professional (ASP) certification to sit for the CSP, among other benefits

“[The GSP] is an important achievement and milestone in [students’] SH&E-related careers,” said Yuan. “Yet, it should be realized that the GSP is not the destination, and graduates should make every effort to continue the journey and earn their CSP credential when they are eligible and ready.”

Yuan communicates the importance of SH&E with students who are enrolled in the first major course he teaches. While some are not SH&E majors, he has noticed that the course inspires some students to switch their major to an SH&E track. “Safety is rewarding,” said Yuan. “It is not the credentials or the awards. It is the effort that we are continually making. Many times, SH&E professionals do not get any recognition, yet we are trying our best to make sure that all risks are minimized.”

Yuan also communicates the importance of both experience and education to his students. “I think that quality education and work experiences are two essential elements for SH&E professionals. The BCSP certifications, especially the CSP, require that candidates have both,” said Yuan. 

Yuan earned his Doctor of Science from the University of Massachusetts Lowell and he is a Member-at-Large for the ABET Applied and Natural Science Accreditation Commission (ANSAC) Executive Committee, where he assists with the statement-editing process and serves as a team chair for review of programs seeking accreditation. Yuan grew up in China where he earned his Bachelor of Engineering from the Beijing Institute of Technology before coming to the U.S. and pursuing an M.S. in Occupational Ergonomics and Safety. 

Yuan can still remember the first time he saw the word “ergonomics” while at university in China. He recalls thinking how cool and interesting the word sounded. The word sparked an interest that never wavered, and he is still doing research into ergonomics and safety to this day. As for returning to normalcy in a safe way, Yuan relies on the nuts and bolts of safety—the hierarchy of hazard control—to determine whether we can return to normal life safely, “Can everyone, whether it is a student, or faculty, or staff really follow protocols all the time? If we can, then the policy will work.”