Catherine Jones

Every day, everybody goes home alive and well. Those are the words of Aera Energy proclaiming their commitment to a safe workplace. Simple, yet powerful, and there are hundreds of safety professionals across Kern County who feel the same way about their workplaces. Gone are the days Upton Sinclair depicts in The Jungle of Chicago factory life in the early twentieth century, the horrors of the slaughter houses, with horrendous working conditions that use up a man and callously move on to the next able-bodied eager worker. Aside from the advances in safety legislation and enforcement, today’s smart business leaders understand that safety is an integral component to successful business and the bottom line. Safety isn’t just about compliance; it has a larger impact. Safety professionals and risk managers play key roles in helping businesses achieve their fundamental mission while also protecting people, property, and profits.

Kern County is blessed with many types of industry and now there will be an educational pathway for safety and risk management professionals which matches the diversity in industry. Bakersfield College now offers an associate degree program in Occupational Safety and Risk Management (OSRM). The degree is unique in that it allows for specialization, or focus on a specific area of emphasis. The OSRM degree will have options in Agriculture, Business, Health Science, and Industrial Technology and it meets the education requirement for pursuing certification as a Certified Safety Professional (CSP). The core courses include Occupational Safety, Occupational Health, Occupational Regulations and Regulators, Managing Employee Safety and Health, Risk Management, and Environmental Health and Hazardous Materials. Core competencies in job hazard analysis, risk assessment, accident investigation, loss analysis, implementing injury and illness prevention programs, managing workers’ compensation light duty programs, and regulatory compliance will be developed. An Environmental Resource option is also being created that is specifically designed for those students who want an associate degree as well as a transfer path to Cal State Bakersfield’s Environmental Resource Management program.

With a plethora of safety, environmental, legal, and liability issues to navigate, businesses can greatly benefit from having a safety and risk management professional on staff. They become the secret weapon tackling issues from mold to various indoor air quality issues, chemical handling and hazardous waste, respiratory protection and other personal protective equipment, machine guarding and material handling. I am excited about this new program and hope students and local industry will be as well. The support from the OSRM advisory committee has been strong, and I am grateful for their assistance in reviewing course outlines and program structure, as well as sharing sample policies. They include: Ben Laverty III, California Safety Training Corp.; Bob Johnson, Granite Construction; Isabel Bravo, The Wonderful Company; Jeff Rasmussen, Kern County Farm Bureau; Joe Bariffi, Aera Energy; Joel Sherman, Grimmway Farms; John Pryor, Risk Management Consultant; Jose Perez, The Wonderful Company; Paul Niemer, Sierra Pacific Industries; Shelley Brown and Devon Molitor, AECOM; Vicky Furnish, Southern California Edison.

Bakersfield College is doing great work providing meaningful education to create relevant career opportunities, the OSRM program is one example. For more information about the program, or if your business is interested in offering safety internships, please contact Catherine Jones at

Catherine Jones, an associate professor at Bakersfield College, has 30 years of experience in safety/risk management and insurance