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Member Spotlight

Laurence Fortin

Laurence FortinWere safety and health part of your work responsibilities since the beginning of your career?
No, like most young people, I explored different career avenues, but the one constant was helping people. My first job was working with troubled youths in Southern California; those experiences shaped my decision to continue the path I am on today.

What was your first field of study, and if it was not in SH&E initially, what made you change career paths?
Toward the end of high school, someone would have needed to bribe me to attend college. I was just not ready for the classroom and felt it was time to get working. My parents’ jobs as a fireman and nurse probably set me on the path of being in the people business more than anything. They are both great people who care deeply for others.

Were any previous jobs critical in bringing you to your current position?
My early experiences as a laborer in construction exposed me to some harsh realities. We would get up before the sun rose, work in 100º+ heat like mad men all day and get home when it was dark. Personal protective equipment was mostly optional, and job hazard analyses and safety meetings were non-existent, so we suffered for it. On a large contract, we were a subcontractor to a large general contractor, which had a great safety program. They definitely had the “it” factor, and I knew our company could do better. Safety for me started at that point, and I never looked back.

What are some of your most valuable and memorable accomplishments?
A personal moment for me was about two years ago while I was attending a company picnic. A veteran laborer introduced me to his young children as “the man who keeps us safe so daddy can come home.” That was a very meaningful moment that I cherish. Of course, we know safety is a group effort, but it will always be special to me. Also, seeing jobs completed safely and driving by them years later feels fantastic.

As a health and safety professional, what sets you apart from others in your approach and/or philosophy to safety management?
I think every safety professional has his or her own distinct approach. Personally, I like to relate to workers as one of them and try to apply my understanding of safety as something that will make them more efficient and a valuable asset to our team. I also try to give them information that perhaps they will pass on to a fellow worker. Even if only one person is affected, it is all worth it.

What are the greatest challenges you find in your current position?
Getting workers to change their initial perception of safety as a hindrance to something of value and career longevity. I think everyone has a knee-jerk reaction to any kind of change and knowing and seeing the benefits of safety personally, this can be a little frustrating at times.

What plans do you have to develop yourself professionally?
I would like obtain a degree in safety and health and achieve the CSP. I think it is an important benchmark in our field and would be proud to have it. Life is a journey, not a destination—keep working!

How did you initially hear of and join ASSE?
Originally, it was to help in obtaining CEUs for my CHST credential. But as time went by, I networked with some great people who shared the same passion I do. ASSE is a great bunch of people; they really care about making a difference.

Do you belong to any other SH&E-affiliated organizations?
The Southern California Contractors Association safety committee.

Recently, Laurence accepted the role of YP Membership Chair. Please welcome Laurence and all of our new additions to the executive committee.

Mentoring

If you would like to search for mentors or mentorees or create a mentoring posting, visit the Members Only section of ASSE’s website.