My Story: Kevin Burns
I graduated in 2019 with a bachelor’s degree in safety management from Slippery Rock University – GO ROCK! I’ve been in the career for a couple of years now. If I could travel back in time, I wouldn’t do anything differently.
Prior to college, I had no idea what to do with my life. I contemplated joining the trades versus going to college. While I was exploring if college was the right choice for me, I saw a booth for SRU at a college fair. The strange name was enough to catch my attention. Long story short, I ended up on a college tour at SRU, where I met Joseph Cali, chair of the safety management department. He dropped what he was doing and invited me to the safety building for a tour. I was sold immediately. I applied to SRU that night and never looked back.
During college, I participated in American Society of Safety Professionals meetings and attended an ASSP Professional Development Conference and Exposition and several career fairs. I remember the excitement buzzing around the room during these events. My peers and I were thrilled to be part of a growing field. The faculty staff at SRU is phenomenal. They taught us how to be successful in the career, from their own real-life experiences. They gave us the guidance and confidence to interact with people in the real world.
While I was finishing my senior year, I was hired as a safety intern for a construction company north of Orlando, FL that built roadways and bridges. The internship was filled with plenty of challenges and just as many learning opportunities. During that time, I became comfortable in the construction environment. I learned plenty about roadway construction, masonry work and cranes/rigging. But, most importantly, I learned that safety isn’t just about knowing the regulations, it’s also about making connections and building a culture. I received great advice from a peer while I was there. He told me that out of every 10 interactions you have with an employee, nine should be positive. Although this isn’t always feasible when there are hundreds or thousands of employees, it’s something to keep in mind. I strive to let people know that I am a resource for them, that I’m there to improve conditions, not to get them in trouble. I learned the importance of safety culture.
Now, I work as a safety consultant for Safex, an occupational health and safety consulting firm. I help people who work in construction and general industry stay safe while they’re on the job. The variety of consulting means there’s never a dull moment. I enjoy seeing different industries, processes and helping companies improve their safety culture. As a young safety professional, there’s a lot to learn and plenty to see, and there are many challenges to conquer. I’m grateful to have a wonderful support system, including my co-workers as well as former SRU classmates and faculty members.