By Mr. Dan Lafontaine (RDECOM)March 8, 2012
ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. -- U.S. Army Soldiers and civilians investigate buried munitions and suspected chemical or biological agents to ensure safe operations in the field. To strengthen their protection, engineers such as Ricardo Anderson scrutinize military equipment and programs for potential hazards.
Anderson, a systems safety engineer with Edgewood Chemical Biological Center, works to mitigate these possible dangers.
'PICK APART THE DESIGNS'
Anderson, who has worked in ECBC's Safety and Health Office for a year and five months, reviews several aspects of a program -- standard operating procedures, safety briefings, personal protective equipment, personnel accountability -- to ensure guidelines are followed.
"For the protective equipment, it has to go through a design analysis," Anderson said. "My role is to pick apart the designs and make sure they are safe and within the restrictions of Army regulations.
"With getting rid of munitions, my role is to travel with the group and make sure we're doing it in a safe manner. I give safety briefs in the morning to make sure everyone is familiar with the hazards that we have on site. When we get rid of the munitions, we have accountability for everyone."
Anderson works with the U.S. Army Aberdeen Test Center, as well as defense contractors, in field testing protective equipment. His projects include protective suits, breathing respirators and vehicle fire-suppression systems.
"I work with people from two-star generals to second-year interns, which mean they have a very wide base of knowledge so you can learn and also teach at the same time," he said. "It affords me the opportunity to work with a variety of people and projects."
ADDING AN ENGINEERING PERSPECTIVE TO SAFETY
Anderson earned a bachelor of science in mechanical engineering from Drexel University. He said his background allows him to approach potential hazards from a scientific perspective in ECBC's Safety and Health Office.
"My education allows me to take a problem such as a hazard in a program and analyze it from an engineering point of view," Anderson said. "It gives me a solid background in problem solving.
"In the Safety and Health Office, we suggest design options or things that the engineers should take into consideration. I would like to get into the actual design process."
'SCIENCE WAS A NATURAL FIT'
Anderson said his passion for science grew from his interest in taking things apart and discovering how and why they work.
"Science was a natural fit," he said. "In middle school, the teacher put alcohol on his hand, [he] lit his hand on fire, but his hand didn't burn. It's basic, but it's something that you remember. It piqued my interest in science."
Anderson learned about opportunities with the Army and ECBC after attending a career fair at Drexel in 2009. Because he did not have a background in safety, he has taken six classes and trainings to complement his engineering education for his current role.
"ECBC is a great place to learn as young engineer. It allows you to be exposed to a lot of different things even if you do not know what field you want to get into. ECBC lets you touch a lot of different groups," he said.