John Kelly, Blackstone Valley Technical High School, Upton, Massachusetts
Growing up on a farm in Massachusetts and spending a career in agriculture production for 23 years prior to becoming an educator, John Kelly understands the importance of workplace safety education. Over the course of a 13 year career and counting, Kelly began teaching as an instructor in horticulture, forestry and heavy equipment before transitioning to computer programming and technology engineering. Throughout his education career, he spent time as a school administrator, Lands Manager and Vocational Director and even interim principal but ultimately, Kelly’s true passion is teaching in the classroom.
“I have always had the passion to share information,” Kelly said. “I’ve noticed the rapid growth in high school and it is exciting to share knowledge and experiences with that age group. I came from the industry at age 50+ and had lots of experiences and knowledge to share with my students.”
While teaching at Blackstone Valley Tech, Kelly saw a need for a safety protocol upgrade within his program and others. He worked with a team of instructors and support staff to reform shop safety guidelines and standardized safety procedures throughout the high school. Safety procedures and courses are introduced the first day of school for every program so students understand how to safely and accurately use tools specific to their program. In Kelly’s own shop, students are not only evaluated on their work, but are also graded on safety and cleanup every day.
“Every activity in training stems from a safe and healthy learning environment – it is the foundation of the curriculum,” he explained. “Awareness is the first job in the classroom and points out what could potentially go wrong.”
In the first week of class, Kelly’s students set up generators and began working on concepts involving electricity with lessons on how to protect themselves and the computers. His students face a variety of safety and health hazards that are sometimes not immediately recognizable as dangerous. In the Information Technology program, students perform multiple safety projects that touch on ladder safety, electrocution hazards, eye protection, tool and materials handling, ergonomics and proper lifting techniques. A large portion of their safety training focuses on electricity and various tools and methods necessary for working on and building computers, including proper lockout/tagout procedures.
“There is a big temptation to troubleshoot and skip steps,” Kelly said. It is absolutely vital that safety be the number one thing we teach. Everything follows from that. While we’re not outside in an environment that is easily recognizable as hazardous, safety is still very important.”
Kelly finds education to be an extremely rewarding profession and says that all the work he and his colleagues do is worth it when they see their students move forward safely and successfully. He became an OSHA certified teacher in construction and general industry in 2006 and continually stays up to date on new information by retaking courses to renew his OSHA credentials. His students graduate with an OSHA credential which includes lessons with material from the Kids at Work federal program. Kelly urges his students make the most of credentialing opportunities and continue to always further their educations even after graduation.
“OSHA 10-Hour is a great start to career-long credentialing that proves the recipient is at least minimally qualified to perform a job,” Kelly said. “I stress that it is a start, to train in the future years by adding OSHA 30-Hour training or job specific credentials to a student’s resume.”