After 10 years of managing a safety engineering office at a branch location, Raymond Colvin, P.E., was informed that his office’s vice president wanted a meeting with him. Not knowing what the meeting entailed, Colvin could only think about his responsibilities as a provider for his wife and six children. During the meeting, Colvin was informed that new management was being brought in and the company no longer need him. Using his ties to ASSE, Colvin immediately called a fellow ASSE member whom he had sponsored and asked if any openings were available within his company. “I told him that I was let go because of a management change,” Colvin said. “He asked me when I wanted to start at his company. ‘Monday’ was my answer.” Colvin was offered a job with that company, starting with the same salary he was receiving at his former job.
With 50 years and counting of ASSE membership, Colvin credits the networking opportunities (e.g., assisting chapter educational sessions, meetings and working within the community) as the most important and valuable aspect of his ASSE involvement. “I’ll never forget the benefits of being an ASSE member and have never turned away another member or nonmember who needed help to find employment,” says Colvin. “I could relate.”
It is with this experience that Colvin advises younger SH&E professionals to get involved, join committees, help others to get ahead because, as he says, “You will always learn more when working with and for others.”
Looking back 50 years, Colvin recalls how the safety profession has changed. “In 1958, all levels of management generally viewed the safety person as having only a technical expertise and was not thought of as being a part of the management team, rather only as a resource to management,” he says. “Safety persons had to justify to management the logic of spending money for safety. Most of the time, the company’s safety expenses were at the bottom of the budget pecking order.” But, he says after 50 years of legal and regulatory changes, most company management groups now view the “safety person” as a member of the management team who has the technical and engineering expertise to manage the activities necessary to meet safety standards.
Although he recalls changes, Colvin notes that the overall challenge to the safety profession, as it was 50 years ago, is to educate and manage workers/people to recognize and avoid hazards through an adjustment in their behavior. “There is no magic to safety. The person must want to be safe and be given the tools and equipment to be safe,” he says. “Management must train, motivate and supervise to make this happen, and the safety person should be leading the effort along the side of top management.”