My Story: Pamela Poe
Growing up when most supervisors had a secretary, I decided to attend a vocational technical school to learn shorthand, typing and a whole array of other office-type duties. This led me to a job in a university admissions office, where I had my first real look at other career fields.
The university provided a benefit for staff: to take one class per semester for free. I chose business courses, until one fateful semester of accounting. That class was agonizing! I was a great student and, at the end of that semester, I landed my first “C,” which normally would have been a disappointment. However, I was ecstatic! I passed accounting and had earned a one-year certificate. Realistically, though, the wages in that line of work just weren’t there. So I sought out other possible professions.
That’s when life changed for me. A safety student walked into my office one day and we conversed about the safety field. He convinced me that I could handle the classes. I changed my major and decided to attend school full time, earning my bachelor’s in safety management. I have never regretted that decision.
I am now employed by the Missouri Department of Natural Resources, working in its Environmental Services Program. As the occupational safety and health consultant, I oversee the safety program for employees who work in the office and in the field, where they monitor air quality, water quality, hazardous waste, solid waste and anything to do with the conservation of our natural resources.
Because of the variety of potential hazards in the regions I cover, I am challenged daily to seek out those leading indicators that can keep us proactive in EHS. Someone early on reminded me that we get more with honey than with vinegar, and so when I have to point out something unsafe during an inspection, I always point out something good that I see as well. Positive reinforcement is essential! I have found that getting out there with the employees and developing good rapport is one of the most valuable things I can do to keep us all safe. Showing I care means more than saying I care.
Sometimes I feel like the most blessed person in the world. I am fortunate to have a job where I can save lives every day, simply by influence. After all, EHS is contagious!
Occupational safety and health consultant III
Jefferson City, MO