UW-Platteville Industrial Studies collaborates with local schools on innovative safety protocol

Pictured left to right are Mark Miner and Dakota Bockenhauer.
Pictured left to right are Mark Miner and Dakota Bockenhauer.
Potosi shop hardhat
Potosi shop hardhat wall

With 31 years of experience in the safety profession, Mark Miner, who is currently the program safety coordinator in University of Wisconsin-Platteville’s Industrial Studies Department, is always looking for new ideas to incorporate into the program’s curriculum. During National Safety Week, he found inspiration just down the road from UW-Platteville in the Potosi (Wisconsin) School District.

“As a past industrial arts teacher, I understand the challenges of creating a safety-minded culture within an organization, and a high school shop environment has its unique challenges,” said Miner, adding that any innovative way to address these challenges is something worth exploring and adding to his curricula. 

Potosi School District’s Career and Technical Education Center is run by Dakota Bockenhauer, Industrial Arts Teacher, who came to the district three years ago and found that students were struggling to retain safety protocol test information that allowed them to run the tools and equipment needed in the Potosi shop. In response, he developed a program that implements tool safety at any stage of a student’s career in technology education. 

“Shop safety is always the number one priority,” said Bockenhauer. 

Similar to programs created at major construction firms, Bockenhauer’s program obtained compliance with safety protocols and created a culture where safety is a regular part of learning. This is important to Bockenhauer, as Potosi has a new fabrication laboratory, and this year alone, the Potosi Shop certified 20 students in industry-recognized certifications. These certifications include Starrett and Snap-On Precision Measurement instruments, Briggs, and Stratton Master Service Technician, and Carpenters International Training Fund Level 3 Residential Construction. 

By implementing the new shop safety protocol, Bockenhauer noticed students developed a safety attitude that will be shared at home and in their future careers after high school. Bockenhauer says that students’ projects have improved because now instead of demonstrating safety, he can focus his teaching more on the technique and procedure with a project. The program also allows students to earn safety badges for their hardhats, creating a competition that helps keep them motivated.

“This entire process is the reason I wanted to observe for myself what was going on at Potosi High School, because sometimes the process or steps or ideas to get from point A to point B in safety can look different from organization to organization – and in the case of the educational environment, age group to age group,” said Miner. “This process is so unique and successful I believe every school tech education program should contact Mr. Bockenhauer to review what he has accomplished and collectively the entire Tech Ed Teachers organization should rally up and build upon Mr. Bockenhauer’s efforts. This is a game-changing accomplishment in student safety efforts.”

Miner said he hopes to incorporate some of Bockenhauer’s innovative ideas into his classes in order to better prepare future technical education teachers and safety professionals. He added that this spirit of collaboration across academia and industry is essential to offering the top-quality programs that UW-Platteville is known for.

“It is so important for academics to look across the table, when meeting with industry, and just say, ‘tell us what you need,’ and that is what Bockenhauer has done,” said Miner. “We will attempt to deliver, and if we need their assistance, expertise or resources, we will let them know. It is a total philosophical shift, and that is what is bringing about this transition in industrial studies. A core value that is coming out in industrial studies is having a service attitude. If you’re going to have a partnership it has to be a two-way thing.”

UW-Platteville offers two safety programs and an agricultural and technical educational program – one of only a handful of universities in the country to offer separate tracks.