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#21: ASSP’s Emerging Professionals Roundtable

March 13, 2019 | 46 minutes 38 seconds

In a podcast first, series host Jill James sits down with three emerging professionals affiliated with American Society of Safety Professionals (ASSP). With pathways to safety as unique as their backgrounds, our guests on the 21st episode share important commonalities: formal education in occupational safety and internships. You’ll hear from one non-traditional student now job-hunting across the country, a Masters-level safety manager in the oil & gas industry, and one passionate advocate for industrial health. Key themes of mentorship, community, and engagement. Also, a few great stories from the field.

Transcript

Jill:

This is the Accidental Safety Pro, brought to you by Vivid Learning Systems and the Health and Safety Institute. Episode number 21. My name is Jill James, Vivid's chief safety officer, and today, I am joined by Erin, Donald, and Anupama. Three new safety professionals at the beginning of their careers. Erin is joining us today from Louisiana. Donald also in Louisiana, but in New Orleans, and Anupama is joining us from Colorado. And I am joining in from our home offices in the state of Washington, so we're kind of all over the place, coming to you for this recording. And this is a first for us on the Accidental Safety Pro, bringing in three voices at the same time, all emerging safety professionals, and I'm so glad that you're all here to share your stories. Thanks everybody.

Anupama:

Yeah, happy to be here.

Jill:

Great, so Erin, do you want to kick us off with telling us how you accidentally found yourself in the safety field?

Erin:

Sure, sure. This is Erin, I'm from Baton Rouge, Louisiana. And my career started a little later than usual. I used to be a photographer, for about 15 years. And went to school, didn't quite finish that degree, I just started working in the field. Then my company that I work for decided to sell, and I was left with the decision, do I stay? Or do I figure out something else? And so I went into looking at the local colleges around here with the help of my fiance, who used to be in the oil field. And he talked about the safety people that were on the rigs. He said, “You know what? That looks like something that you could do.” And I said, “Okay.” So I looked at the curriculum, and it was local, so I could commute, and still work. They had a couple online classes. I could still work and do schooling, so I went into the OSHA program at South Eastern Louisiana University in New Hammond, and they have a four year degree program, where it's occupational safety, health, and environment. So you get a little bit of everything in the industry. So I went into that. Since I was an art major way back in the day, this was a science, bachelor of science degree, so I was basically starting my schooling completely over at 30 some odd years old. So it was a pretty big, big change for me.

Jill:

Right!

Erin:

So I enjoyed the classes, they were things that I could relate to from being in the work force. Whether it be photography, or one of my many odd jobs that I've held.

Jill:

Sure, sure.

Erin:

But-

Jill:

You were a very focused student at that point in your life.

Erin:

Right, I thought, you know what? I'm a little older and wiser now. Maybe I'll get through school a little bit easier.

Jill:

And so you just recently graduated, too. Correct?

Erin:

I did. July of 2018, was my official graduation, and ever since then, I've been working part-time as a VHS compliance manager for a local auto shop, and am currently looking for a full-time position.

Jill:

Excellent, so here we have Erin, a young safety professional who is just starting out, who is also in search of that first full-time employment. That's wonderful. And so, are you going to be looking in various places of the country, or are you looking in a specific for anybody who's listening and thinking, hmm, I know of a job!

Erin:

I have been looking all over, and I have applied all over the place. But recent things have changed, to where my fiance has taken a new opportunity in South East Texas, so I am trying to focus more on that area now.

Jill:

Wonderful, okay, okay. Very good. Well, good luck to you on your pursuit, and your search.

Erin:

Thank you.

Jill:

So yeah, Donald, you're up next. How did you find yourself in the world of occupational safety and health?

Donald:

Hey, how's it going? I found my way here from just looking at ways to help people, and help to make people feel better, and have fulfilling work. I started under-grad as a nursing major. I quickly learned on my clinical rotations that people don't really enjoy being at the hospital because it's a major inconvenience, so that kind of environment, I didn't really enjoy too much. So I looked to change my major, and I changed my major to health science. I started working, I got a part-time job at the university. I was a university employee at the school I was going to, and I worked for the risk manager. And she handled OSHA compliance, and hazard identification, and in control for the campus for outside people, as well as for students of the school, and employees. So I helped write a lot of the safety programs when I was an undergrad at my school, and I did a lot of the lab safety projects. Went to a lot of events to ensure that everything was in place at that time, so I really enjoyed it. And then, the program I was in, was in the School of Public Health at my university. So I looked into occupational health, and industrial hygiene. So I got a Master's of public health and occupational health, in safety management, and industrial hygiene. And I've been working in the oil and gas area. Downstream refining for approximately six years, so that's how I got here.

Jill:

Oh I'm wondering, oil and gas, is there anything that's been surprising to you about it? Or what's that been like for you?

Donald:

Just the onboarding process for new employees. People have very different backgrounds, they have varying degrees of knowledge of high hazard, working in high hazard environments. So it's a lot of work on the front end, it's a lot of work managing contractor. Especially contract employees that come work in the facility. They could have been doing anything before they come into the site. We have all kind of flammable gasses and hazardous things going on, so it's interesting for sure.

Jill:

Yeah, pretty intense onboarding.

Donald:

Yeah.

Jill:

Yeah, and does it feel different for you now? You said you started out in nursing, where people are in, they don't want to be in a hospital setting. What's the reception been for you so far in your career with safety? Have employees received you well, or is it something that's been a challenge too?

Donald:

I think it's always varying degrees, right? There's always some people who really enjoy it, because maybe they might see themselves transitioning out of whatever field, whatever craft that they have, into possibly doing something in safety. So they're energetic to learn it, and be engaged. And then there are some people who see it as a way to get them in trouble. I think I mostly get along with everyone. I know that there's people who have negative things to say about the safety representative. I feel like I've always had a good relationship, because I feel like I approach everyone calmly. I don't really try to yell at anyone, or act like a, a term they told me, I don't know if they use this across all industry, but a term they use is the safety cop.

Jill:

I was just going to say that, yes. Yeah, it's the-

Donald:

Yeah, I don't really do that.

Jill:

No, if there's a tip to all three of you is, you don't want to be the, have the label of safety cop, the one who's watching over people. Like, “Oh, here comes that safety person again.” You know, “We're going to do it the right way when they're watching or we're going to complain about them.” So good on you, it's not an archetype that you want, for sure. Anupama, tell us about your path. How did you get into this, and where are you?

Anupama:

Yeah, so thanks again for having me. I got into safety also through my under graduate program, so I had a really hard time choosing what I wanted to study. On some days, I wanted to be a doctor, others a psychologist. Some days, I wanted to fight for the environment, and I think the environmental health program that I ended up signing up for was a beautiful way to combine all of those things. You get both the art of human interaction, and then you get the science that my left hand brain really wanted to get into, so. That's how I originally got into the field, and then, at least the environmental health side, and the industrial hygiene side. And then as a senior, we had to have an internship, and then, so for that I was fortunate enough to be able to do my internship out of Kraft Brewery right nearby my school, and that's really where I started to get a day to day understanding of what safety is, and what the occupational health side of things are. As opposed to just doing studies, and running numbers, and stuff like that, so. I love it, and I really, really liked that prevention side of things. I actually stepped away from EH&S, and kind of moved into that public health realm. A little bit more traditionally, like what Donald was talking about. And I spent two years working for the CDC, doing more environmental things on the public health side. Childhood blood poisoning, and childhood asthma specifically.

Jill:

Intense

Anupama:

Yeah! For sure. At the end of that experience, after some reflection, what I came back to was that, especially in an employer situation, a safety professional has so much more opportunity to employ prevention measures, and really have a hand in keeping their employees safe. And I wasn't seeing that easy path, if you will, to keeping folks healthy, and injury free in the public health realm. And I was just super attracted to it in the industrial side.

Jill:

It felt more preventative to you?

Anupama:

Absolutely, yeah. Then I went back to that brewery, I worked there. I opened up their new facility in North Carolina, and just recently started a new job as a safety manager in a facilities management company back home in Colorado.

Jill:

Wonderful, wonderful. Congratulations on the next job!

Anupama:

Thank you.

Jill:

That's great, so I wanted to, since all three of you have degrees in safety. And in relatively new to all of you, super new to Erin, having just completed it. I'm wondering, when you reflect on your academic background in training, is there something that really stands out? Like oh, I'm really glad I learned that in school, and I'm applying it now. Or understand, connected the dots from the education piece to actual practice.

Donald:

Like Anupama mentioned, I come through it to health and safety through a public health lens. So for me personally, I took classes in toxicology, in chemistry, biology, risk assessment. I took some finance, obviously statistics. So I think that health and safety programs really help develop a really well rounded health and safety professional, because there are so many aspects to the job, right? In promotion, there's policy development, writing procedures and programs. There's advocacy for the employees on the behalf of the employees to the employer, so you know, there's a lot of different areas. So I really enjoyed my training, personally.

Jill:

Yeah, great.

Anupama:

Yeah, for me, I think the thing that stands out that I'm most thankful for, from my undergrad, aside from the internship itself and getting out in the field and being able to apply what we learned in the classroom, was the opportunity to practice report writing, and presentations. And actually taking what, you know, anyone can pick up a standards book. But if you don't make it relatable to your audience, you're going to have people sleeping.

Jill:

Yep, right.

Anupama:

So that was certainly, looking back, my professors were very adamant that we were constantly up in front of a room. Constantly talking to people. That was super helpful for me.

Jill:

That's awesome. Yeah, Erin, how about you?

Erin:

Yeah, I completely agree with Anupama about that. That aspect, the internship, and everything, it really puts you out there. I for one, I had so many diverse classes, that not just one really sticks out, but it was all the information that you learned in these different classes, that really kind of brought these things to your attention. It's like you can now related that to something in the workplace, as far as, like the regulations that I didn't know anything about until I went to class. What, all the details you have to take note of when you're investigating an incident or an accident, which I feel like my photography side actually comes in handy with that part. I guess, just the diversity of the different options. All the different classes. Even some of the extra classes that were electives. One of them was radiation safety, so that just gave you so many different options. It broadens everything for you.

Jill:

Yeah, when I think back to my educational background in safety in my grad program, I guess the high light for me of something that I've gone back to again, and again, were learning how to read and interpret the OSHA regulations, which seems sort of basic. But if you can't figure out how to read them, and then interpret them. Anupama, like you were talking about, like how do we talk about this stuff so it's not just gobbledy-gook in someone's ear. You know, making that effective, but that's something that I really appreciate about my academic background. As well as what you've all echoed with those internships. And specifically, presentations. I think the educational back grounds that you all have gotten, have gotten better at putting people in front of audiences to be able to find your voice in safety. I remember doing it once in grad school, but then when I got to that first internship, almost immediately, I was in front of an audience. And that was really important, and I needed to learn, how am I going to relate this sort of stuff that, Donald, as you pointed out before, you don't want to be the safety cop. How am I going to make this relatable to people? And those were some of the gifts that I was given early on in my career to be able to lean into as well. So thanks for sharing those stories. I wanted to let our audience know that the three of you know one another. I am the outlier here in this conversation. A couple of months ago, the American Society of Safety Professionals had approached us at the Accidental Safety Pro and said, “You know, maybe it would be fun to talk to some young professionals in safety and capture their stories in the podcast.” And so we agreed to that, and they had suggested the three of you, and so really grateful for this opportunity for us to be a little experimental with the podcast today. And I was wondering if one of you can explain the common interest group that you're all part of with the, I believe it's called the Emerging Safety Professionals, and kind of what that means?

Anupama:

So the Emerging Professionals, I think the full title is The Emerging Professionals in Occupational, Safety, and Health Common Interest Group. Really aims to support professionals that are new to the EH&S industry. Both from a technical lens, you know there's the educational side of things. But really to me, what's brought the most value is the community side of things. Having a group of people to be able to go to and ask questions, and know that we are kind of at the same point in our careers, and maybe having similar struggles. So to me, that's kind of what the group has been most powerful and most helpful for. Because we're national, we try to really provide that connectivity, or feeling of connection to all of our members throughout the United States. Both on a, you know, every year at the national conference, this year that's in New Orleans. Or down to a regional professional development conference level and even at a local chapter level.

Jill:

Wonderful, wonderful. Thank you for giving us that perspective. So I'm wondering if maybe each of you could tell us about what do you see in it for you to be part of ASSP, or any other professional safety organizations? What's it doing for your career as people who are kind of at the beginning of their career stage?

Donald:

Obviously networking, but I would say that more so is guidance. Having people in the profession that are working at all levels. People that are students, your peers that are at the same level. Entry to mid level as you. Very experienced people to C-Suite of safety leadership, are all people who interact regularly through the society in general. And specifically, our common interest group. The American Society of Safety Professionals takes a really big effort for them, they really try to encourage the development of emerging professionals like all of us. Things that I've come across specifically is, right now I'm looking at doing a second Master's program in safety. And the people who are on the board of advisors for the program are people I know personally through ASSP, and like, I was looking at the website doing research, I was like, “Hey I know those four ...” You know, there are eight people on the board. I know four of them personally, like I have their number in my phone, so that's just been through the three or four years that I've been active with ASSP. So it's really good networking, it's really good to have an issue, you know, we come across all kinds of different issues that, it might not necessarily be your strength. But I can call someone that works in that industry, deals with it all the time, from my relationship with them, with ASSP. And almost have a, something that, where they needed a consultant to be brought in, and just give somebody a call and get some guidance on it, so.

Jill:

Right, right. And you'll find that. All of you will find that in your career in safety. We're kind of a small family, in a way. And there's many of us who know one another, and so it's really great to make those connections early on in your career. I'm glad you're able to find it through ASSP, that's pretty cool. Erin, how about you? What does being part of a professional organization bring for you?

Erin:

It has actually brought a lot for me, personally. When I first started back in school, it was brought to my attention from one of my classmates that this was a good organization to be involved in. I had one of my professors pretty much bring it up every time we met for class. He would talk about it. He's been a member forever. He even started our student section that we had at South Eastern, and so I started going to a couple at the local chapter, because I didn't know what the student section was doing. I hadn't heard anything about it, or anything like that. So I went to the local chapter sections, and then met a couple professionals there, and then they had the Future Safety Leaders Conference. I went to that in my first year, and it was a great experience. And to be honest, since then, that was 2015, I've been treasurer, vice-president, president of the student section in South Eastern, and I have gone to every conference I could. But both the Student Safety Conference, and the TDC, they have every summer. And it has helped me come out of my shell. Before I went to school back in the day, it was hard for me to pick up a conversation or to be out there. And for all the presentations we had to do, or being president of the student section, I had to talk at all the meetings, and even talked at the local chapter meetings. So it really has helped me come out of my shell. I've done a lot of networking, I've met a lot of great people. Our local chapter is as active as I have known a local chapter to be. I know some are not as active. But they do a local golf tournament, annual, every year. That helps raise money for this, they have two scholarships through the ASSP that they give to both the LSU students, and South Eastern. And it's just been a really good thing for me. I've been very involved. And we grew our membership at the student section from 30 to 60 members in one semester, so I did, I went into the student section with like, five or six people coming to the meetings. And when I became president, I had about 30. So I was very-

Jill:

Oh, congratulations!

Erin:

Thank you. I was very proud of that accomplishment, and they're still striving. In fact, they have a meeting tonight, I'm goin got go and see how they're doing. It's really, the most thing I can say, it's given me a great opportunity to network, and got me my internship, and I've met a lot of great people. So right now, I mean, they even, local chapter even put me as their membership chair for local chapter once I graduated, so it's been a really good experience.

Jill:

Excellent, that's so cool! Congratulations to you.

Erin:

Thanks.

Jill:

So one of the things that I'd like to hear from each of you is, where do you go when you need help? Like, what are your resources? Donald, you had explained to us that you tapped some of your resources within ASSP, but when you're doing things day to day, what are the different resources that you go to when you're stumped on something?

Donald:

Mostly ANSI standards, maybe American Petroleum Institute standards. The NIOSH chemical hazards, and the American Council of Governmental Industrial Hygienists-

Jill:

Oh, Industrial Hygienists.

Donald:

They'll show a limit value booklet that they have. These are kind of good. The resources I kind of keep on the desk to flip through.

Jill:

Yeah, wonderful, wonderful. Anupama, how about you?

Anupama:

Yeah, so this is where my, I can tell you, I have been saved multiple occasions because of my relationship with ASSP members. Erin, you had asked earlier what benefit does that organization bring, and I was thinking, what benefit doesn't it bring?

Jill:

Wow, okay, great!

Anupama:

I have, a tangible example is, at my last company we had a huge disagreement between corporate safety and my site safety on how to implement a lock out tag out program, and it was extremely emotionally charged, because it was after a pretty sever injury. And we're, you know, a close community, and know each other personally, and very well so there was lots of different complications in it. And I reached out to my contacts at ASSP, both through another common interest group, the WISE group, the Women In Safety Excellence group. As well as in person at the conference. Just sitting down at a lunch table, and being like, “Hey, this is the problem we're dealing with. How would you address it?” And I got so many different perspectives and answers and resources. “And have you looked at this? Or maybe tried this? Or ...” It was incredible, and so to answer kind of both of your questions, to me, my first thought is, I wonder who in my community has dealt with this before, and how they would handle it?

Jill:

Wonderful, great. Yeah, that's great, I appreciate that. Yeah, anyone else have anything else to add to that?

Erin:

Any issues that I've had so far, since I haven't really been out there too long. I usually go to the professors. They're very knowledgeable, and have been so many different things. One started out in brewery, and is now consulting. So they just have so many different ideas, and so much they can contribute to someone like me, who still has questions.

Jill:

Very good, so curious to know, though it's still early in your careers, what's the thing about safety that you don't really like doing? That's not your favorite thing. And what's the thing you really love doing?

Anupama:

For me, I can tell you right away, the two things I don't love doing in an effort to avoid the safety cop, I try to approach safety violations with a, okay, what are all of the other reasons that may be contributing to why you're not following this or that rule? And at some point, I think we've all come to it where, like at the end of the day, you've gone through the rules, you've gone through the tools, you've figured out if the person has the skills, and then ultimately, it's a question of wills. And how do you maintain a strong relationship with someone who is just like, “You know what? I really, it's not the fit of the safety glasses, I know I have to wear them. I just hate them!”

Jill:

The wills. I love this, okay.

Anupama:

So for me, that's something I don't think any of us like to be put in that position. And then what I love, I love also being up in front of a classroom. I really enjoy facilitation of trainings. Particularly when I don't have to use a PowerPoint. I hate PowerPoint. I'm much more going to have someone do an activity than a PowerPoint. That and building relationships with folks. I think if we don't understand what's going on in people's life, we can't help them with what they need to do at work, so.

Jill:

Right, right, right. It's the whole human.

Anupama:

Absolutely. Acknowledging the humanity in someone is a huge part of my approach.

Donald:

I would say that what I enjoy the least will probably be convincing management of the aspect of when we identify an issue, and there's conflicting ideas about how to address it. Especially when it's a different group. When you have to find different ways to find that common ground in order to assert your influence and find that common ground. Because, in my industry specifically, sometimes those things are, sometimes finding that is very difficult. What I really enjoy, that I think other safety professionals that I've worked with in my personal experience seem to not enjoy that much, that I did was the part of standing in front of the room and getting all those questions. “Why do we have to do that? Why are we doing this?” I really enjoy that, because I enjoy providing feedback. I enjoy letting everybody air out their grievances, because like you all said, once, when we have those open forums like that, even if they don't agree, we make sure the employees feel heard. And as much as we can do to assist them, we do assist them while following the policy and the regulations. I think that goes a long way into creating a high morale, and good culture, and knowing that, like you said. Not being a safety cop. You can tell me you think it's dumb, you can tell me that there's something else, and I want you to come up with a different way to do it that'll make you more comfortable that still complies what we need. I'm all for that. I want you to be the most comfortable, but yeah. I would say going in a room with a group of managers who don't want to spend the money, having to convince them that this is important. That's the least fun.

Jill:

Yeah, I think a lot of people would agree with you on that one, Donald. That's one of the harder aspects of our work. And yeah, I agree, and explain the why behind something when you're in front of that audience, I think is really important. I know when I started my job with OSHA a long time ago, and I was doing my inspections, I really made a commitment very early on to explaining to employees and employers, if I was writing a citation, or I was noting something that was an unsafe work practice, that I explained the why. Like, what could this do to you? Would could, whatever hazard, physical hazard it was, what could it do to you that would impact you personally where you are right now? What could happen, or what has happened? And as soon as you start explaining that, then people are like, “Oh, I didn't know that.” Like, there's a risk in that. And not every time did that work, as you're pointing out Anupama, with, there's still that will to contend with. People might say, “Oh well”, insert safety cliché, “nothing's happened in 30 years.” But it's certainly a truth in our industry. If you can explain the why, people will often be better adopters. So I'm wondering if the three of you, as we're kind of rounding out our time together, one of the questions that I think employers in general still are learning about our profession is the depth and breadth of what it is that we do on a day to day basis. The numbers of different sort of topics, the numbers of different sort of fires that are coming into our offices, over our phones on a day to day basis. Kind of like all the different sorts of things that you tackle. And I'm wondering if maybe we could start just sort of naming some things off, and sort of go in a round robin of topic, by topic, by topic of things that maybe you're working on now, or things you've worked on in the past, or things that you've done that you're like, “That was a once and done thing”, or “Gosh I can't even believe I did that. I didn't know the job was going to be this.” Those kind of things.

Anupama:

One that caught me off guard was evaluating the compliance of protein muffins from a bi-product of a process. Yep.

Jill:

Wonderful! Okay, next.

Donald:

I'll say, I feel like I'm the field HR representative. I get all kinds of complaints about all type of things that aren't necessarily health and safety related, but in order to keep those relationships, and to make them feel comfortable coming to me, I just sit there and listen to it all. And bring it to the appropriate group that I feel ... A lot of things that I do is, that I didn't know that I would be expected to do at times was equipment inspections. Specifically for like crafts for like lifting and ladders, and other things like that. I understand that there are programs, and they need to be inspected, and all those other good things, but I didn't know I was going to be going doing it!

Jill:

Doing it, yes, yeah, yeah.

Anupama:

Another one that just happened to me a couple of weeks ago is, I was in the middle of lunch. I was working and eating in my office, and a gentleman walked in, he said, “I hope you don't have a queasy stomach, I'm covered in human feces!"

Erin:

Oh my gosh!

Anupama:

Yep, so that ended up being a whole hazard evaluation, right?

Erin:

Uh-huh, biological hazard, what are we going to do with this?

Donald:

I have another one.

Anupama:

And another, oh, go ahead.

Donald:

I had one of our cleaning crew people come to me, and ask me about our sanitation, or health pro policy. Or do we have anything in place? And I was like, “blood borne pathogen?” And he was like, “Yeah, we got this person that comes, they're cleaning the bathroom, and they're eating while they're in the bathroom cleaning it, and then this, then that person used the restroom and don't wash their hands, because I'm always ...” It's just like, yeah, okay.

Jill:

Oh man.

Donald:

Okay, we got some health initiatives coming soon, okay cool.

Jill:

That's a good one.

Anupama:

You know on that HR front, one that surprised me was being involved with personal safety issues that show up at the work place. So stalkers that might show up, you know, work place violence is a hot topic right now, especially for women, so that was a surprise.

Donald:

I've had two guys get into it in the parking lot over a parking spot. One person was driving too fast, another person cut in front of them to get into the parking lot. And they were about to get in a fight, right there in the parking lot. And I had to come interject, and be like, “Hey man, what are you all doing? Stop.” And they're like, “Nope. We want to fight. We're going across the street, outside of the employer parking line. We're going to hash it out."

Jill:

Wow! Yeah, interesting. I've had people who were, I responded to a complaint where employees were shooting one another with nail guns.

Donald:

Oh!

Erin:

Oh my gosh!

Jill:

Um-hmm. Erin, I think you were trying to say something earlier?

Anupama:

We had to, unfortunately, the safety department had to take away the company's tether ball pole after someone ... I mean it's wild, one thing to the other, right? After someone was playing tether ball on the clock and broke an ankle.

Erin:

Oh wow!

Jill:

Okay, you know, there's I think a lot of safety professionals have dealt with the, you didn't think you were going to deal with how loud the music could be in a workplace setting, and the answer is when it puts you over the threshold, so then you have to institute a policy on how loud, and is it the same station, is it the same type of music. You know, who gets to have what kind of music, and you can't go over 85 decibels, including the tools and equipment that you're using. And so that might be an unexpected one that you didn't think you were going to deal with in your workplace, too.

Anupama:

We had a field day in the middle of winter, and the task was to figure out how we could play football inside one of the production hallways, and still have it be a safe environment.

Jill:

Still have it safe, yeah. Have any of you gotten into environmental compliance things, where you thought that maybe you'd be more of a traditional safety person? Has that stuff come your way?

Anupama:

For me, I started out on the environmental side of things, so I actually went the other way.

Donald:

Yeah, I came in with the expectation of having environmental responsibility I did in my first position, and now where I am now, there's an environmental group that handles that. We do just health and safety.

Jill:

When you think about all of the things that make up a safety budget, yet many safety professionals don't have money, or don't have a budget, what are some of the things that you've had to find ways to secure funds to be able to do, or to be able to buy?

Anupama:

SO something that's been surprising to me, as I transition into this new role, is it's, we're in a customer relationship, and everything is very dependent on the contract. So the way one main contract is written is that the customer pays for all PPE and PPE programming, like electrical gloves, and all of that. So the process to obtain is so much longer, because instead of just going to my employer and saying, “Hey, I need 14 pairs of electrical kits." It has to go to the customer, it goes to their account. It's reviewed by their safety professionals, and then approved, so nothing can be done last minute. And that's definitely been very different than when I had my own budget, and I had a P-card, and I could just get what we needed whenever we needed it.

Jill:

Yeah, so you can't, yeah, you can't picot quickly and provide people with what they need if it takes you a couple weeks to get the funds.

Anupama:

Um-hmm.

Jill:

Donald, how about you?

Donald:

So at my first position, I did not have a budget. I had to go through, production had a budget. I had to just fight and beg and plead to get everything that I needed from production. And in my current role, that is not a responsibility that I have, so I have very limited experience fighting that battle as of yet.

Jill:

Well, it may be nice to have a break for a little while, then.

Donald:

Yeah.

Jill:

Yeah, yeah. Well, as far as, you know, as we're going to close out our time together, wondering if there's anything you would like to share with people who are starting out in their careers, or anything that you see that's new on the horizon for our profession right now? Anything that's exciting, or things that you wish you had, or tips that you have for people?

Anupama:

Two things come to mind for me. I found when I was brand new at my own site, even though I had a corporate team, I was so green and so overwhelmed, and so professionally lonely. Like, oh my gosh, I don't know what I'm doing. There's all of these people that are 30 years older than me. You know, and I can tell you that without a networking group like ASSP, I probably would have switched careers. I was so dependent, I became so dependent on ... Okay, I'm not the only EHS professional in the world, people have done this before me, and there are strategies and tips. So for me, it's one, get connected through whatever organization speaks to you. And then on the other side of that, if my ask to experienced professionals is, if you see someone who's new to the field, and they're sitting by themselves in the back of a room, with their head down in a cell phone, they're probably super nervous. Go say “Hey, My name is this. Talk to me about the problems you're facing at your site.” Draw folks into conversations that are like, “Hi, I'm here, and I don't know what I'm doing.” And then the second thing that's really, really helped me is getting a mentor, which I have through ASSP as well. And my mentor has helped me through professional challenges and personal challenges, and she was actually the one that was like, “You know, it might be time for you to start exploring next steps, and what this looks like for you.” So really, really, it's about the people, and getting to know them and putting yourself out there, I think.

Jill:

Yeah, yeah, great, great. Who's next?

Donald:

I think that one hit the nail on the head. The only thing I'd add to what she said is about networking, but networking inside of your organization, right? Not just with the safety people, but in the different grooves. Understanding exactly, to the best that you're able to understand, exactly what everyone does. What the groups function are, who's the go to people, who's the people who get it done, get the things done, in order to build those relationship, and leverage your influences as much as possible. I think that's something that I learned slowly, and I'm probably slowly getting good at. I think I was good at networking with safety people, and voicing all of my complaints, and reaching out and being really active to get to know safety professionals. But inside of your workplace, inside of your company, that's something that you need to do there as well.

Jill:

Yeah, very good, very good. Erin, what do you have to add?

Erin:

My one thing to tell anybody who's just coming up in the field is to get involved. Volunteering and networking and being involved, all the things that are out there for you. There's a lot of training, a lot of different conferences you can go to for each industry that you want to be involved in. And just get out there, and network. One of my teachers, his thing is, if you're nor networking, you're not working. So every graduation ceremony, he always says that, and we always have to answer, so it's drilled in our head, and I feel like the ASSP is a really good source for that, to start with. And from there, you know, I'm sure there's, I haven't really gotten into any other ones, but I know there's other organizations out there that may be a little more localized or just something else that you could be involved in that might help you out. Being in contact with other people that do what you do. They may be experts in ergonomics, where you might need a little help in that, so I feel like that's one of the best things you could do to improve your career.

Jill:

Wonderful, well, you heard it here, everyone. From our emerging safety professionals, to get connected. Whether it's within your own professional practice, or within your company, as Donald pointed out. And getting to understand the greater picture of where it is that you're working and how your company functions, and to find those mentors. Ask people to mentor you, and for all of us who've been in safety a long time, reach out a hand to our new safety professionals, and offer your mentorship. Offer your best practice advice, and make them feel welcome in our industry, because we all probably understand that we can run really fast alone, but we can go really far together. And so, thank you all so much for being with us today. I really appreciate hearing your stories, and thanks to everybody who's listening, and for joining in, and all the work that you all do to make sure your workers make it home safely every day. You can listen to all of our episodes of the podcast at vividlearningsystems.com, or subscribe in the podcast player of your choosing. If you have a suggestion for a guest, including if it's you, go ahead and reach out to us at Social, at vividlearningsystems.com. Until next time, thanks for listening.