CSU recognizes National Safety Month, observed annually in June, to celebrate occupational safety and health students graduates and faculty for their commitments to safety, professionalism and their accomplishments.
“As safety professionals, it is not about what we build, it is about who we build that truly matters.”
CSU alumnus Dr. Erich Pyles believes these words to the be true when it comes to changing the lives of others through his career in safety. His passion to help others started with the decision to join the military to serve his country which eventually grew his love for safety.
“I first joined the Marine Corps in 1991 and was shortly medically discharged due to an injury,” he said. “After several years passed, the military kept calling me, joining the Air Force in 1997 then transferring to active-duty Army in 1999. In 2007, I was honorably discharged due to injuries sustained in Iraq.”
Erich received three traumatic brain injuries, along with neck and back injuries during his time in the service. As he settled back into civilian life, he was ready for a new challenge.
“If you wanted to get promoted in the military, you had to challenge yourself, and college was one of those challenges, finishing with an associate degree in business almost four years later.”
Wanting to continue his college education, safety was not Erich’s first choice in choosing a bachelor’s degree to pursue.
“Continuing toward a business degree after the military was my goal,” he said. “However, prior to attending CSU, I visited a few universities and realized my goal of a business degree was in line with hundreds of other students, meaning the business degree field was being flooded with everyone being a potential candidate. Nonetheless, a career as a safety professional appeared to be more enlightening with opportunities to make a change in the lives of others. Coaching, educating and mentoring employees, middle management and leaders at every level about safety and the impacts, brings me a level of satisfaction, making small strides in everyday lives.”
In 2011, Erich graduated with a bachelor’s degree in occupational safety and health followed by a master’s degree in 2014. Recently, he obtained his doctorate degree in executive leadership in 2022.
“Being where I am today feels great and accomplished, to an extent,” he said. “I have 16 years in the construction industry, and 12 years of HSE experience within the United States and abroad, holding certifications (CSP, ASP, CHST, STSC) through the Board of Certified Safety Professionals and two certifications (CESCO, CESCP) through the National Registry of Environmental Professionals. Yet, I am eager for more!”
Erich is currently working as a safety manager for the company Actalent, working in a career he says would not be possible without his degree.
“Experience in the field hands-on is great, but coupling the hands-on portion with a safety degree from CSU will set oneself apart through promotion and salary advancements in every industry,” he said. “Moreover, a degree from CSU will allow graduates to understand the theoretical foundations of safety and how to implement safe work practices through a conceptual framework.”
A big responsibility Erich has given to himself is to be a mentor and share his experiences to those who are looking to pursue a career in safety so they too can help be a part of changing lives.
“While I was trying to work and support my family, attend medical appointments and study, the struggle was real and at times I did not know how I could continue moving forward and keep up with everything,” he said. “Yet here I am today celebrating another day with a great career, wonderful family and the opportunity to educate others regarding hazards.”
“Take time to understand the foundations of work. Get as much hands-on experience as possible and seek support understanding the ‘why’ of the work. Understanding the work from an employee/trade’s perspective, and how equipment and machines operate will help support future growth and will gain you much respect from everyone involved.”