Roberts graduated in the early 1990s from what was then Texas State Technical Institute with an Associate of Applied Science degree in Occupational Safety and Health and a certificate of completion in Hazardous Materials Management.
Roberts recently talked about his career when he visited the construction company’s project at the site of the new Waco High School.
How did you choose TSTC and your program of study?
I grew up in Nevada, where my father worked in the construction industry. After high school I joined the U.S. Army, and after my time of service, I joined my father in Austin and later moved to Waco. I worked in the fitness industry and eventually received a grant from the Heart of Texas Council of Governments to attend TSTI (now TSTC) for free. I liked hazardous materials management because I could see myself responding to chemical spills. TSTI got me a job in Austin as an environmental technician working in the general industry side of safety. The company I worked at for a decade decided to outsource its manufacturing overseas, so my role as a waste guy was done. I knew I had the safety degree and took that and switched to the construction industry because Austin was hot and heavy with construction. I adapted well going from environmental work to construction.
What does your job involve?
I just took the director position about two months ago. Before that, I was a site safety manager. Mostly what I do is check on my job sites. I have three other site safety managers that I support. I do a lot of communication by standing in front of project managers at meetings and giving them safety updates, mainly from the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration. I usually try to visit two to four projects every day.
We stay focused on the high-risk things coming up. We are proactive and look ahead to see what is coming up and get the planning done on the front side.
I am surprised by how many people new in construction really want to be part of the safety processes. Safety used to be more of a police officer on the site being an enforcer. That culture is really vanishing quickly. Nowadays, we find ourselves in a comfortable position where we are heavily trusted by the project teams to address and manage safety situations.
What are some of the safety updates you have told workers about?
Our teams are all invested in our safety programs. Right now, we are pushing innovative ways to combat heat stress. We are going to issue Type 2 Class E helmets because they have the potential to stay on your head in the case of a fall, but also protect you at work sites. We think that will be a big game-changer in personal protection equipment for the construction industry.
What excites you now about the safety field?
Our younger people excite me. We are looking to our younger people to challenge the norm. We want them to ask questions. The construction of the past cannot survive.
The technology we are starting to see also excites me. We use Propeller drone mapping software.. Each project has an assigned drone pilot. We are also using PLOT, an app that helps us plan jobsite coordination, lead time management, logistics mapping, and delivery coordination.
What advice do you have for students?
Learn from your predecessors, then look for better ways to strive for continuous improvement. Your signature is your word. When you sign you name to say a task was completed or a conversation was had, it is your responsibility to verify. It is all about integrity and doing what is right. Ultimately, your job is to make sure everyone gets back home to their families safely at the end of each day.
TSTC offers an Associate of Applied Science degree and certificates of completion in Occupational Safety and Environmental Compliance at the Abilene, Fort Bend County and Waco campuses.
Registration continues for the fall semester at TSTC. For more information, go to tstc.edu.