My Story: David Stumbo
My first job out of college was teaching high school biology, but it wasn’t a great fit for me. I happened into a position as an industrial hygiene compliance officer with Kentucky’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health Compliance in 1996. I learned the ropes of worksite inspections, regulations, litigation and more. The variety of subject areas (hazardous chemicals, noise, etc.) – combined with a plethora of worksites (manufacturing, chemical processing, health care, etc.) – kept it interesting.
Next, I jumped to the state’s OSH consultation program, changing from “OSHA cop” to trainer/consultant. The new job involved helping employers meet regulatory requirements and exceed them when possible. I also got back into teaching and training, but for adult learners. I enjoyed the challenge of translating very dry regulations (try reading 1910.1001, Asbestos) into content the average worker could follow and find beneficial.
My next position involved some major industrial hygiene-nerding. As the state’s health standards specialist, I issued policy interpretations and did the legal legwork required for state adoption of OSHA standards. My favorite job duty was fielding telephone and email inquiries, which ranged from confined space entry procedures to “What if I get horse blood on me?” (FYI: The Bloodborne Pathogens standard applies only to human blood.)
A few years later, an opportunity to serve as the consultation program’s safety manager led me to switch from industrial hygiene to safety. I was fortunate to inherit a team of dedicated safety professionals who were (and remain) vastly underpaid for the quality of service they provided. Although management duties required me to keep pace in a cycle of meetings, work reviews and other administrative tasks, I still snuck out of the office when I could to provide a training seminar or two.
All along the way, I furthered myself academically, earning my first graduate degree in public administration, and then another in safety, security and emergency management, and finally a doctorate. I tried to leverage so much classwork into opportunities to further my knowledge of OSH-related subjects. This wasn’t always as ideal as it might sound – there were times when “jack of all trades” felt more like “master of none.”
In 2017, I left state government for a tenure-track position in academia. My time now is spent with research and teaching students about hazard identification and control, personal protective equipment, ergonomics and similar topics. My students have many distractions (damned cellphones!) and competing responsibilities, but the majority of them focus on establishing their careers in OSH. Perhaps my greatest inspiration is how they perk up when I describe just how important their future jobs will be – how they could easily make the difference between someone’s typical workday or a tragic incident.
David Stumbo, OHST