USI conducts safety training

Mason Bianford


When USI was founded, companies from the area helped provide funding and support to get the new institution off the ground.

Director of Corporate Partnerships Charmaine McDowell said this early support formed a long-term partnership with area businesses

USI provides safety orientation for over 7,000 contractor employees annually through a contract with the Tri-State Industrial Safety Council (TSISC), which was formed in 2003. 

The TSISC is a nonprofit organization that raises awareness for construction safety for employees in the Tri-State area.

While it is unable to qualify employees as prepared for Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) standards, it helps assure workers are getting basic information before they go to a job site for more specific on-site training.

Michele Ashby is one of the trainers USI hires to conduct this safety training. Fifteen years ago, Ashby was working for Looisville Gas and Electric when she was held at knife point by a customer while collecting a bill from their residence. Since then, safety has been a large part of her life.

Ashby has been instructing safety classes at USI since 2003. Part of her goal is to take a bad situation and turn it into something positive for other work groups.

Although Ashby’s situation involved self defense, she says the TSISC safety program has also been instrumental in assessing similar situations. Teaching workers how to read body language and retreat is a mandatory aspect of the awareness program she helps instruct.

Since the program launched, USI has been involved with training workers through the Division of Outreach and Engagement. Excess revenue is used to maintain these training programs and pay trainers like Ashby.

The training covers modules such as general employee safety, hazard communications, protective equipment, electrical safety and elevated work surfaces.

“There’s more to safety than just what’s on the paper,” Ashby said. “You gotta be able to apply it to what you’re doing and the hazards you’re faced with, on any given day. Everybody benefits when you have a safe work environment.”

The program was founded by safety representatives from companies including Vectren, Bristol-Meyers and Alcoa.

Today it’s comprised of 23 owner member companies and over 40 associate and subscriber members.

By providing workers with general training, it eliminates the need for similar programs at different job sites that review the same standards.

These training programs not only benefit the employees who receive it, but also students at USI.

“By keeping and developing these relationships with area employers, it creates more of a chance for our students to get internships and other opportunities,” McDowell said.