Diane Herndon, Frederick Career & Technology Center, Maryland
Safety protocol is established early at the Frederick Career and Technology Center and in Diane Herndon’s Landscaping Program. Many of Herndon’s students will move on to work in the industry and she aims to help them develop safe work habits early. She maintains a culture of safety in the classroom and reinforces that students should go home at the end of the day in better shape than when they started, both physically and mentally. According to Herndon, it is important that students learn from industry professionals as well. In the summer, an organization Herndon is a part of hosts a safety camp for students aged 8-13. Each year, Herndon has two guest speakers come in to talk about their mishaps on the farm. “One gentleman talks about losing his arm in the PTO shaft and the other talks about losing his wife when she fell off the fender of the tractor and was run over. No matter how many times I’ve heard those stories, they never get easier. Our lives can change in an instant, we need to take time and listen to those who have lost and learn from their mistakes. There is always time to take a step back from your work and review the safety aspect,” Herndon shares.
Herndon says that safety is an essential component to the curriculum because she is helping to train the workforce for the next generation and safety is vital to success in business and industry. Her students complete OSHA 10-Hour training and Landscape Safety (LS) Training modules for equipment they use in the classroom. For the LS training, students are required to watch a safety video, complete a checklist with Herndon and score 100% on their test be SAFE Certified. In addition to these required items, students are encouraged to make a safety video showcasing one piece of equipment. Students also prepare for their private pesticide applicator license.
Herndon’s husband works in industry as a facilities engineer and other guest speakers from industry have spoken with her students stressing the importance of having credentials and the fact that they may be required to obtain those certifications in the workforce and pay out-of-pocket.
“Students need to learn to be conscientious of their surroundings and the hazards that surround them. I’m trying to teach them to be proactive rather than reactive and to maintain their equipment to avoid mechanical failures, which lead them to take shortcuts and often result in injuries,” she says.
Each year, Herndon and her students plant a vegetable garden at school, which students care for over the summer. The produce is harvested from the garden and donated to the local food bank. “We are currently growing native pollinator friendly plants to give away at our upcoming county fair to help improve habitat for the local honeybee populations,” continues Herndon. Students in the program participate in an ambassador program where they attend local elementary and middle schools to talk about career opportunities in the industry. They have also partnered with the city of Frederick to grow and provide trees, shrubs and landscaping to be planted in the city while at the same time presenting educational programs on urban forestry to local middle school students. Students are also members of the FFA chapter and participate in local, state and national events through the organization.