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Students Suit Up for Intro into Environmental & Occupational Health

Colorado School of Public Health


Students in the Colorado School of Public Health’s Introduction to Environmental and Occupational Health class (EHOH 6614) at CU Anschutz get to visit worksites as part of their learning that most students never see. Last spring, on one such trip, students suited up in safety gear, pulled on steel-toed boots, and used hearing protection to go underground at the Henderson Mine in Empire, Colorado.  It’s a rare experience for anyone who is not a mine worker to see the miles of underground tunnels, massive operating equipment, and detailed inner workings of one of the largest-producing molybdenum mines in the United States.  However, ColoradoSPH students seized their opportunity to get an insider look at how a mining company can successfully manage worker safety in one of the most hazardous of industries.

With hard hats and emergency tracking devices, students loaded into an elevator that transported them more than a mile underground where miners work 12-hour shifts blasting, mucking, grinding, and transporting 38,000 tons of molybdenum-rich ore from the mine to the mill daily.

Omar Awan, an EOH student pursuing his MPH degree, said seeing the structure within the mine was impressive.  “I think the most wicked thing was looking at how they built everything underground,” said Awan.  The large tunnels, much like dirt highways with stop signs and well-equipped underground vehicles, were a surprise to many of the students on the tour.

The students in the class appreciated the hands-on experience of the worksite tour with the opportunity to see an insider perspective on safety in the mining industry.  Lisa Barker, an MPH student in the class, was pleasantly surprised by all she learned about the mining industry, including the job opportunities an individual can have as a mine worker.  “I didn’t expect all the different kinds of jobs.  There’s the sense that mining is one kind of job, but it’s such a diverse environment.  It just has so many opportunities to learn from,” she said.

After the mining tour, ColoradoSPH Professor Lee Newman took a few intrepid students on a two-hour snowshoe hike along a trail near Colorado’s Berthoud Pass, tramping through a beautiful blue spruce forest.

In addition to visiting the Henderson Mine, this semester’s Introduction to EOH class took advantage of in-the-field learning about worker health and safety by visiting worksites such as the University of Colorado’s research animal handling facility, the Bioscience 2 building construction site on the Anschutz Medical Campus, a marijuana growing facility, and Denver’s wastewater treatment facility.

“There is no better way to reinforce the principles of environmental and occupational health,” said Newman. “Students get to see first-hand how to think about the real life challenges that workers and their employers face. They also get to see the kinds of jobs that are available in the fields of environmental and occupational health and safety.”

The course culminates each year with much-anticipated Public Health Annual Oscars Night. Students prepare YouTube videos on environmental and occupational health topics that then are “screened” at the event, which has proven to be a highlight of the ColoradoSPH Masters of Public Health experience. Dr. Newman, ColoradoSPH Dean David Goff, and EOH Department Chair John Adgate don their tuxedos and, along with community judges, present “Oscars” for best videos in a range of categories. Who will get the “Golden Nalgene” award this year? Who will wear the coveted “Golden Hard Hat?”​ 

​Story by Jana Gurkin, Director of Outreach & Communications for the ColoradoSPH​ Center for Health, Work & Environment

Colorado School of Public Health

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Mail Stop B119
Aurora, CO 80045


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