Building Safety Month

(WACO, Texas) – Two technical programs at Texas State Technical College are paying homage to Building Safety Month, a time to celebrate the dedicated professionals who work to ensure that buildings are not only well-built, but also safe and secure.

“We are human, and mistakes will be made,” said Rick Vargas, the state chair of TSTC’s Building Construction Technology program. “But if everyone stays vigilant and is able to identify and correct safety issues, then we create a safe workplace for everyone.”

Vargas said one of the most important things he wants students to take away from the program is safety. The Building Construction Technology program uses the 2018 International Building Code in classes but also includes significant changes made in the 2021 revision, he said. The program will use the 2024 International Building Code when it becomes available.

“We enforce safety every time our students are in the lab to make sure that safety becomes part of their ‘muscle memory’ whenever they go to work,” Vargas said. “We see that by the third semester, safety becomes second nature to the students because they already know what they are expected to do in our labs.”

Bobby Horner, a public information specialist for the city of Waco’s Development Services – Planning and Inspection Division and a graduate of TSTC, said cities can adopt the latest edition of the codes and adapt them to meet specific needs. Cities that adopt recent building codes can see insurance ratings benefits, he said.

“The code items that we take for granted include exit lights in buildings, fire sprinkler systems, fire alarms, etc.,” Horner said. “It can also remind us of the importance of making sure plumbing is working properly, electrical wiring is kept up to code and not frayed.”

Herschel Miller, lead instructor in TSTC’s Building Construction Technology program, said there is a need for building code inspectors due to retirements.

“It is a great field to start in,” he said. “You learn every aspect of the industry. Be a sponge doing this, and the information you gather as a building code inspector will be valuable.”

Working alongside those in the construction industry are occupational health and safety officers, who are also needed.

“(Their job is more than) going to work and just being in a building after construction is done,” said Jason Morrow, an instructor in TSTC’s Occupational Safety and Environmental Compliance program. “There are a lot more aspects to take care of on a day-to-day basis, working hand in hand with facilities and operations as a team … to keep everyone safe.”

Morrow said May is a good time for people to review emergency plans and perform safety audits. Occupational Safety and Environmental Compliance students at TSTC learn how to do safety audits in the Accident Prevention, Inspection and Investigation class.

“Having the proper planning cannot be dismissed,” Morrow said.

The International Code Council is one of the lead organizations that support promoting building safety in May.

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