How I Ended Up in Occupational Health and Safety

by Megan Savage

Why did I become the dreaded safety guy?  I guess I fell into this role. As a younger me, I was going to save the world! I would stop hunger and brutality and all things evil. As I grew up I realized that I couldn’t solve all of the world’s problems by myself.  Lacking the ability to organize an army of idealistic people who wanted to save the world with me, I knew I would have to find another, more practical, endeavor.

I grew up in a hands-on family. I started roofing and construction with my family in my early teens; had to change my own oil and tires on my car. I was in the field and saw/experienced many things at an early age.

I always knew I wanted to work in the environmental field, to do what, I was not sure. I mentioned to my father (a former marine) one day that Mass Maritime had a good environmental program and the next thing I knew I was enrolled and starting at a paramilitary college in two weeks.

While there I majored in Marine Safety Environmental Protection. We focused on hazardous waste removal/remediation, marine oil spill clean-up, and the like. (Here I was learning to save the world from some real nasty pollution!)

When I was finally out in the workforce after college, I witnessed more than one really awful- yet preventable- accidents. For example, on one job site I observed a worker on a front end loader rushing, and when he thought the loader had stopped loading the trailer; his first thought was not about safety- he just wanted to get his task done. He was in between the loader and the trailer when I saw him- the loader had started its swing back toward the trailer with him in between.  I pulled him out of the way from being squished by the front end loader with barely a second to spare.

Another time I watched a man using a nail gun, also not paying attention to what he was doing. Forgetting the safety protocol he had kept his finger on the trigger, and he shot a nail through three fingers. I realized then that I had to help educate these folks about what to do, what not to do, where not to stand, what to look out for.  

Although most people groan when they see the safety guy/gal; I love what I do. Just last week I walked in the door to a group of visibly upset people. They were unhappy that I had recently made several changes in their workplace in order to improve safety. They felt that I was there just to make more work for them; and they were ready, waiting for me with their pitchforks and torches! They spent half an hour attacking me and the changes I made, and I waited to let them get it all out of their systems. Afterwards, I said “Ok, feel better? Let’s walk around and discuss the changes.”

I explained the importance of each change and the reason behind it. By the end of our five hours together, each person thanked me and truly understood the importance of safety. That is what it’s all about. Teaching one person one trick to stay safe, then they can pass it along to someone else.

So, I’m still saving the world, just one worker at a time.



About the Author:

Megan is a seasoned safety professional, with an extensive background in marine safety and environmental protection. She has logged many hours as a workplace safety educator and has been able to draw from her field experiences and bring real-life expertise into her OSHA Outreach classrooms. Megan received her Bachelor’s degree in Marine Safety and Environmental protection from Massachusetts Maritime Academy.