My experiences as a professor of safety and health at four universities and a site visitor at numerous other universities with similar programs made me aware of the fact that higher education in the United States is experiencing an increasing number of foreign-national students. As American universities expand their operations into other countries via online delivery of courses, and higher numbers of students from other countries engage in American university learning environments without ever leaving their own countries, questions regarding the content of the curriculum delivered become increasingly important. This is true at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. Many of the safety and health curricula at American universities are based on United States legal regulations—particularly 29 CFR 1910 and 1926—standards for general industry and construction. Additionally, curricula many times incorporate environmental regulations that usually include references to laws, such as the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), the Superfund Amendments and Reauthorization Act (SARA), and the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA). Although the references to these and other regulations incorporate practices with world-wide applicability, they may also be misleading, in that students may not know whether specific applications are necessary or needed in any way in their own working environments. For example, is the interpretation of what does and does not need to be recognized as an Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) recordable, necessary information for a safety and health student from South Africa? Will it aid in helping provide a safe and healthful working environment for South African workers? A South African student may never deal with OSHA nor have any reason to waste time learning and memorizing what necessitates OSHA recordables. The same would be true of recordkeeping requirements of American environmental regulations. This is only one example; there are numerous other instances where foreign national students or those who will practice the profession in other countries are taught and expected to know material that will be of little or no use to their personal careers or to the employees with whom they will work.
Currently, the primary accrediting body for safety and health programs in the United States is the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technologies (ABET). The lead society in formulating program criteria for evaluations is the American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE). Inreviewing criteria for baccalaureate-level programs, #6 states, "Graduates must be able to identify and apply applicable standards, regulations, and codes" (Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technologies [ABET], 2012). In program criteria for master's level programs, it states, "Graduates of a master's level safety program must also have demonstrated knowledge and competencies in the same subject areas defined in the baccalaureate program requirements" (ABET, 2012). Inprogram criteria for Environmental, Health, And Safety and Similarly Named Applied Science Programs, led by the American Industrial Hygiene Association or American Society of Safety Engineers, the criteria for baccalaureate-level programs states, "The basic level criteria as applied to the field of Environmental, Health, and Safety should be interpreted with respect to the following curricular content areas: legal aspects of environmental, health, and safety practices" and "environmental regulations and permitting processes." In addition it also states that, "Criteria for master's-level programs require the following additions beyond the baccalaureate level: (i) minimum of one year of study beyond the basic-level, consisting of courses with increased depth and rigor (ABET, 2012). The inference is that mastery of undergraduate curricula would have taken place prior to entry into the MS program. In either case, slight reference is made to regulations, assumed to be of U.S. origin. A strict interpretation may permit application of laws and regulations in countries where the student may eventually work. In a few cases, this may not be possible, since a student may, upon graduation, work in multiple countries and be forced to deal with the regulations of each.