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