Occupational Safety

(BRECKENRIDGE, Texas) – Christina Rhodes is ready to take everything she learned at Texas State Technical College into her new job.

Rhodes, who graduated in April with an Associate of Applied Science degree in Occupational Safety and Environmental Compliance, is now working for Pactiv Evergreen in Abilene as the company’s lone safety leader.

“It was a thrill to get a job in the field I have been training in for the last two years,” Rhodes said. “I have worked in safety since 2006 and decided to get a degree in the field I enjoy.”

During her time in the TSTC program, Rhodes learned different skills, including accident prevention, environmental regulations, industrial hygiene, safety program management and physical hazards control. She was also able to obtain an Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) 30-hour card, an OSHA general industry and construction card, and a Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response (HAZWOPER) card.

At Pactiv, Rhodes will make sure that the company follows its safety procedures and complies with the many state and federal safety regulations.

“I was excited to learn that I would be able to work before I graduated,” she said. “I have always enjoyed working as a safety leader and now have more knowledge to do the job better.”

Rhodes credits her newfound knowledge to TSTC and instructor Teresa Purcell.

“I love her and the way she teaches her students,” she said. “She is a very hands-on instructor who wants to see us succeed.”

No matter the inquiry, Rhodes said Purcell was always available to help.

“Even if it was the stupidest question, Teresa would be there to explain and walk us through it,” she said. “When she was through, we had a better understanding of what needed to be done.”

Purcell said Rhodes’ dedication to completing the program will lead to a successful career.

“Being a single mother of four, she faced many obstacles while attending school, working full time and taking care of everyone in her home,” Purcell said. “She never let the everyday hardships show, and she held her head high and battled everything thrown her way.”

Purcell said Rhodes has already been recognized by Pactiv officials.

“She is a leader by taking charge, making good decisions and learning from the disappointing ones,” Purcell said. “She has already been recognized at her new position as being diligent, having a positive attitude and energy — with only being on the job for a couple of weeks. The corporate office thanked her for ‘jumping in with both feet’ and welcomed her to the Abilene team.”

Rhodes said the need for occupational health and safety technicians is growing around the state. According to onetonline.org, Texas will continue to need occupational health and safety technicians for the next several years. By 2028, the website is forecasting a 16% increase in jobs for technicians around the state.

“The field is starting to grow with more facilities opening,” Rhodes said. “Safety technicians are needed in our area. Having the chance to take classes close to home was great. More people should give an OSHA career a chance. Not only do you learn how to keep people safe, it is a good way to make money.”

The annual salary for a technician in Texas is $39,460, onetonline.org stated.

Rhodes is spreading the word about the Occupational Safety and Environmental Compliance program anytime she can.

“I have bragged about what TSTC has to offer in this field. My friends are starting to ask me more questions, so I hope the interest grows,” she said.

The Occupational Safety and Environmental Compliance program is also taught at the Fort Bend County and Waco campuses.

Registration for the summer and fall semesters is underway. For more information, visit tstc.edu.

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