MANY SAFETY professionals know that the Utilities Practice Specialty within the American Society of Safety Professionals (ASSP) provides access to a network of safety and utilities experts as well as industry education and information. It’s a resource for members looking for technical knowledge in the utility industry on issues related to electrical, solar, natural gas, wastewater, telecommunications and many other areas.
But what is less known is how ASSP is assisting the educational path of family members impacted by workplace tragedies. Utility workers face a wide range of safety hazards that can result in fatal injuries. Having a loved one die on the job takes an emotional toll and often creates a significant financial hardship for the worker’s spouse and children. That is what prompted the ASSP Foundation to create its Family Scholarship in 2013.
“A devastating workplace incident involving a family member can derail a person’s plans to attend college or pursue more education,” said ASSP Foundation Chair Linda Tapp, CSP. “We are committed to helping families that have experienced these difficult circumstances.”
The 2019 Family Scholarship recipient, Kaley Renslow, had her life turned upside down at age 12 when her father was killed in a plane crash. “Without my dad, I lost so much of my identity at an early stage in my life,” she said. “Because my mom had just lost the love of her life, I took on the roles of friend, confidant, companion and daughter, and showed her unconditional love and support, just like my dad would have done.
“Through the grief process, I’ve come to realize just how much I care for people,” Renslow said. “I encourage others to be the best versions of themselves. This scholarship not only bridges the gap financially, but also lifts such a heavy burden from the lives of those affected by the loss of a loved one.”
The 2018 Family Scholarship recipient, Samantha Wooten, has worked tirelessly to bridge gaps for others. Her father was killed at his public sector job in 2016. The fatal incident wasn’t investigated by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and did not lead to remedial action or a safety citation.
That outcome moved Wooten to action. She successfully advocated for legislation to improve workplace safety for public employees in New Hampshire. In May 2019, a bill was signed into state law to expand how serious workplace injuries and fatalities are reported and investigated. In recognition of her efforts, Wooten received the Family Activist Award from the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health (National COSH).
“I try day-in and day-out to give my father a voice and help ensure this type of incident doesn’t happen to another person,” she said.
Wooten is in her first year in the occupational safety and health graduate program at Keene State College in New Hampshire. She serves on the executive boards of United Support and Memorial for Workplace Fatalities and the New Hampshire COSH.
Learn more about the ASSP Foundation Family Scholarship at www.assp.org/family. The ASSP Foundation, celebrating its 30th year as the charitable arm of ASSP, works to build a strong pipeline of occupational safety and health professionals to make all industries safer worldwide.