My Story: Cory J. Grimmer
I often ponder the circumstances that caused me to dedicate my life and career to the great field of safety and health. As I contemplate, I am immediately brought back to a nearly life-changing event that happened to me 20-plus years ago. I had just landed a job working the night shift at a juice plant and was excited about the prospect of making good money at such a young age. My job duties often had me driving a forklift, performing general cleanup duties and barreling juice concentrate as it came through the evaporator.
On one particular night, we were in the process of transferring from grape concentrate to strawberry, which required us to clean out the holding tank. I was asked by my supervisor to spray down the inside of the tank with a bleach solution and then scrub the tank with a long brush. As I was walking to the tank, I remember seeing a dirty half-face respirator hanging and thinking to myself, ‘Maybe I should put this on.’ Having not been fit tested nor understanding the types of cartridges necessary to work with chlorine, I donned the mask and entered the confined space. At that time, no training had been given and no confined space procedures were in place.
Little did I know about the hazards in the space. As I sprayed the inside of the tank, I began to feel a strong irritation to my throat, making it difficult to breathe. As I stuck my head out of the tank opening, I tore my mask loose and began to cough up blood. As I labored to breathe, I immediately exited the space and reported the incident to my supervisor. Thankfully, I was one of the lucky ones and survived with only short-term effects of my exposure.
Several years later, as I contemplated my options for my professional career, the transition seemed like a seamless one. I began my career in a support role and now have worked in this field for more than 16 years in many different capacities. Looking back on my experiences, would I have changed anything? Yes, I would have. I would have chosen to not have had such a painful learning experience. It is often said that life’s experiences help shape a person into who he or she is today. I can’t help but feel this sentiment when I think of this experience, for it not only helped to lay the foundation of who I am as a person, it has helped shape the way I look at worker safety.
Cory J. Grimmer, CSP, CHST
Environmental health and safety manager