Vol. 12, No. 6

50 Years & Counting

LeRoy Abbott, P.E.

Working in aircraft airframe and engine overhaul, and tired of the ups and downs of government contract work, LeRoy Abbott, P.E., turned to the safety profession and saw it—and ASSE—as a permanent career path.

Abbott entered the SH&E field in 1955 as a field safety specialist for the Insurance Co. of North America (INA) and joined ASSE in 1958. Abbott, who recently received an ASSE 50 Year Crystal Award, credits ASSE resources, and networking and professional development opportunities to his successful safety career, which is still going strong. He currently works in risk assessment consulting, which he considers a cutting-edge form of accident analysis that integrates safety engineering and cost-benefit analysis.

At the start of his career, Abbott saw the difficulties of networking outside of the employee ranks and helped form the South Florida Safety Association, which he says ultimately became ASSE’s South Florida Chapter. Having a hand in publishing the association’s monthly newsletter, Abbott also relied heavily on Professional Safety to get the most from his membership. “Highly respected professionals began to publish in the ASSE journal. Through their articles and technical papers, I saw the profession move from a first-aider and do-gooder approach to a productive-member-of-the-management-team approach,” he says.

As he began to develop a more technical approach to his career, particularly seeing that safety was not limited to insurance coverage, Abbott relied on technical information from ASSE, NFPA and Factory Mutual publications to aid him when conducting survey assignments. “ASSE helped me immensely since I could obtain reference material and source information from networking and directly from ASSE headquarters.”

Abbott says his networking opportunities and professional development expanded tenfold when INA transferred him to Philadelphia and he joined ASSE’s Philadelphia Chapter. He became an active committee member and chair, and met many individuals who went on to be the first Washington staff of OSHA. He also met Frank Bird Jr., who was safety director of Lukens Steel. Abbott credits Bird’s book, Damage Control, for changing his perspective on safety. He also says that his own principal educational tool was ASSE’s journal. “I read every article that was published and even attempted to get to know many of the authors.”

Abbott encourages new members and prospective SH&E professionals to never forget the value of networking, and to always remember that the profession requires constant educational improvement. At 80 years of age, Abbott is studying the Root Cause Analysis Handbook and keeps a copy of Damage Control with him to refresh and redirect his goals. “Networking and individual study are the keys to growth and ultimate success in this and any engineering field,” he says. “Be innovative. Be curious. Be an engineer. Find it!”