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The Life of a Safety Health and Environmental Engineer

An interview with one our Rosie River Community Members!

How would you describe your job?

I am a Safety Health & Environmental Manager for a large equipment manufacturing company.  In a nutshell, my job is to coach people to go home safely at the end of every work day.  I coach those who work hands on with our products and also their supervisors and managers.  Safe work is the responsibility of every level in an organization. What does your day to day look like?

My workdays are quite varied.  I work from home some days and other days I’m exclusively in the field.  So, my days consist of these extremes and everything in between, plus a lot of airplane, airport, and rental car time to get to and from field locations. When I’m in the field, I’m watching people work, helping to solve problems, reinforcing good behaviors, coaching undesirable behaviors, and building relationships (which is a professional way of saying I’m talking to people about their families, hobbies, and such).  Building relationships is super important, it’s what helps people feel comfortable telling you about the things that are they think are possibly unsafe and helps when I’m coaching them to do things a safer way.  When I’m working from home, it’s all computer and phone time.  It’s all the administrative work behind the scenes; writing programs, building training programs, gathering and crunching statistics, planning, and building tools that people need to implement safety programs and policies. How did you end up in your job/field? 

When I started my first job out of college, my manager told me that one of my assignments was going to be to “run the safety committee”.  The guy who had been doing it, “was tired of doing it” and they wanted to change it up.  There was really no safety program to speak of at that company, just the safety committee and a few safety rules.  Unfortunately, a lot of people were getting hurt.  I very quickly learned that a safety program is much more than a safety committee.  I really enjoyed driving a process that made a difference, i.e. the implementation could keep people from getting hurt.  So, I transitioned from doing just a little bit of safety to a career path of full-time safety management.  What do you love most about your job?

  The variety from day-to-day and place-to-place is probably the thing that keeps me most engaged.  But, my favorite thing is knowing that from time to time, I say or do something that keeps a dad or mom safe for their kids. What is your favorite example of a well engineered or well designed thing, and why is it your favorite?

I chose my field of Industrial Engineering because I was fascinated by the manufacturing process.  When you watch an assembly line, it’s like an orchestra performance to me.  All of the individual bits and pieces coming together to make something, it’s just amazing to think about and see.  I could (and sometimes do) watch “How it’s Made” all day long.  To think that the manufacturing process, especially a  highly automated one, even starts with the manufacturing of the manufacturing of the equipment to manufacture the product and so on and so on.  It’s a marvel of human capability and engineering. What’s something you think people need to fix?

As people, we run up on these issues and things all the time.  It’s kind of crazy, because you really never truly know the backstory as to why something is the way it is.  People don’t make mistakes on purpose, it’s usually a case of adapting to some unanticipated problem in the design and/or build stage.  But, I’d have to say that right now, because it’s today’s annoyance… fix the way we board airplanes.  We should board from the outside in… get those window seats and back seats on first.  Watching an airplane board is always a cringe worthy experience for me. 

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