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Meet a real Occupational Health and Safety Specialist, Greg Tate
Interview
Greg Tate, Occupational Health & Safety Specialist, Division of Occupational Health and Safety, National Institutes of Health (NIH)
Greg Tate, Occupational Health & Safety Specialist, Division of Occupational Health and Safety, National Institutes of Health (NIH)

1. I chose this career because...

2. My typical workday involves...

3. What I like best/least about my work...

4. My career goals are...

5. When I'm not working, I like to...


1. I chose this career because...

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Greg Tate evaluates work practices and recommends procedures involving a biosafety cabinet (sterile environment for biological research).
Greg Tate evaluates work practices and recommends procedures involving a biosafety cabinet (sterile environment for biological research).

I chose to become an occupational health & safety specialist because I always knew I wanted to help people. In high school, I was interested in chemistry and strong in math, but I did not have any idea what type of job would suit me best. While in college, I came upon the safety science field. I was curious about the laws that protect workers, since one of my friends had lost a foot during a work-related accident. I began taking classes and enjoyed the coursework.
At the time, I did not realize the broad spectrum of issues that encompass the safety profession. The classes I took included ergonomics, industrial hygiene (evaluation of chemical and other exposures to workers), fire protection, as well as, regulatory classes which teach the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA, http://www.osha.gov/) standards.

After graduation, I accepted a position as an industrial hygienist for a consulting firm. I enjoyed the position because I traveled all over the country to monitor chemical and biological exposures at Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) sites (including the anthrax response at the Hart Senate Office Building), for the Department of Defense (including the Pentagon post-9/11 and many Air Force bases), and at manufacturing plants. Eventually, the traveling was too extensive, so I sought a position at the NIH, which required no travel, and included aspects of biological safety that I enjoyed.

Education
  • Bachelor of Science, Safety Sciences, Indiana University of Pennsylvania, Indiana, Pennsylvania

2. My typical workday involves...

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Greg Tate conducts a laboratory survey to ensure safe storage of chemical and biological agents.
Greg Tate conducts a laboratory survey to ensure safe storage of chemical and biological agents.

My typical workday is extremely autonomous and sporadic. Every day new experiences and challenges come along, and this makes being a safety specialist at the NIH interesting and increases my knowledge in the safety field. My main area of concentration involves laboratory work with hazardous biological pathogens.

Major Tasks
  • Oversee proper registration, manipulation and disposal of chemical and biological hazards including viruses, bacteria, toxins, and recombinant DNA work.
  • Investigate and make recommendations to reduce potential exposures for the various institutes, and train researchers. This work is fulfilling because I can follow the progress as I make changes within the program.
  • Respond to various other work safety situations that present themselves such as an indoor air quality complaint, injury/illness investigation, or general questions
  • Complete annual laboratory surveys for the institutes that include:
    • Reviewing work practices involving the use of hazardous materials to reduce the incidence of injury and work related illnesses
    • Evaluating the use of biological safety cabinets and chemical fume hoods, which protect workers from hazards
    • Reviewing storage, use, decontamination, and disposal of chemicals and biological hazards

Additional Roles

    I serve on two major committees including the Animal Care and Use Committee and the Institute’s Safety and Health Committee. My role on both committees is to review and inform researchers of handling requirements for hazardous materials.




3. What I like best/least about my work...

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What I like best about my work is the fact that I serve to keep the people - who devote their lives to improving the public’s health - healthy! Sometimes this is a harder task than it may seem. Another aspect I enjoy, is being able to schedule my workday as I would like. Though at times, I get pulled away to research questions for scientists or handle other problems that arise. Being able to split-up my workload, allows time for reading biosafety and industrial hygiene journals. This goes a long way in keeping me up-to-date, and in my development as a safety professional.

What I like least about my work are some aspects that are frustrating. I get frustrated when people take objections to my attempts at keeping them healthy and safe. Sometimes the work I do is a thankless job, and I must remember that although people may fight you on certain issues, you are there to keep them healthy. If I do my job effectively, there will only be healthy people who think that the safety rules they follow are too stringent, because no one ever gets hurt!

4. My career goals are...

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Greg Tate enjoys fishing as a hobby.
Greg Tate enjoys fishing as a hobby.

My career goals are to continue to take classes each year for development within my profession. It is very important to set goals and perform constant self-evaluation, regardless of your choice of career. I periodically review my short and long-term goals to keep my motivation and development strong. Within the next five years, I plan to achieve two certifications within my field. I plan to become a Certified Safety Professional (CSP) as well as a Certified Industrial Hygienist (CIH). These certifications require very intensive study and provide a measure of knowledge within the field. Within 10 years, I would like to be a manager of a safety program within the government. Thereafter, I strive to move into higher levels of management.

5. When I'm not working, I like to...

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Greg Tate at Yosemite National Park, California, after climbing Half Dome.
Greg Tate at Yosemite National Park, California, after climbing Half Dome.

When I’m not working, I like to devote the majority of time to my wife and kids. I have a four-year-old son and a newborn, so I don’t get much rest! I enjoy reading, golfing, camping, hiking, and fly-fishing (although I scare many more fish than I catch).


















































     
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