Our center stands on three pillars: Research, Education, and Practice. One of the many ways we work to protect workers is through educating and training future leaders in occupational safety and health (OSH). We support trainees in OSH disciplines across six programs through the Mountain & Plains Education and Research Center
To kick off our Alumni Spotlight series highlighting our graduated trainees, we interviewed Mwangi Ndonga, an industrial hygiene graduate working as the Senior Health and Safety Hygienist at Ball Corporation
in Broomfield, CO.
How did you find yourself in the field of OSH?
I was interested in an environment-related STEM graduate program in Colorado. I found the Colorado State University (CSU) industrial hygiene program
via web search. After visiting with Dr. Volckens during my visit to CSU, I was hooked. His approach of making technology simple for the end user still resonates with me today.
What attracted you to the MAP ERC program?
The MAP ERC is unique. I hadn’t witnessed a university-level program that was actually designed to encourage interdisciplinary collaboration and learning before. I was impressed that the MAP ERC “walked the interdisciplinary walk” without stumbling.
What lessons did you learn by working with classmates outside of your program field in the MAP ERC?
The primary lesson I learned was that I needed to rely on my classmates/professionals to be effective in health hazard mitigation. Even as a senior professional, I recently leaned on former MAP ERC graduate, Jennie Dustin, to steer me in the right direction regarding some ergonomic challenges I was facing at work.
What is your current role and how does it apply to your training or field of study in OSH?
I am Senior Health and Safety Hygienist at Ball Corporation. My primary role is related to industrial hygiene. I also manage our occupational health and ergonomics programs, and provide guidance to our North America operations on environmental health and safety (EHS) big data and analytics and risk management.
Were there major differences between what you thought your job would be as a student compared to your current role/responsibilities?
Yes. In terms of the practice of industrial hygiene, my training prepared me to confidently assess health hazards. As soon as I started my professional career as an industrial hygienist, I was considered an expert by my company and my training was the foundation for that expertise. However, over time, I was given (or asked for) additional responsibilities within EHS such as ergonomics, public health, and data analytics.
How has your training impacted the way you approach OSH?
My training helped me center my successes and challenges on the worker. The primary stakeholder in anything I do is the worker.
How has your current position impacted the larger body of workers, families, and communities?
I have been fortunate to interact with a variety of workers in several states and provinces. Typically, these interactions last several hours and involve topics such as work-life balance, family, ambitions, and workplace stressors.
What advice would you give future OSH trainees?
Recognize that technology will play a bigger role as your career progresses. Ready yourself to take advantage in shifts such as Industry 4.0. This means not just thinking outside of the box but throwing the box away.
Anything we missed?
I am very passionate about the intersection of technology and EHS. I co-host a podcast called Probability Matters
along with my friend, Kyle Kreuger. We have had insightful conversation with data scientists, CEOs, former MAP ERC alumni, university faculty, business consultants, and EHS professionals.