Grenzebach: Putting Safety First

Picture of a man welding

Customer Profile

Grenzebach is a privately owned, family-run company based in Germany, with 1,600 employees worldwide and 100 employees at its Newnan, Georgia, facility. Primarily a material handling manufacturer, Grenzebach produces large conveying systems for the glass industry and for James Hardie, makers of exterior siding products. The company also produces solar glass and manufactures electric automated guided vehicles for use in moving materials from place to place inside distribution facilities.


Prior to 2012, Grenzebach’s Newnan plant was experiencing too many recordable injuries, said Ken Pinkerton, head of facilities, quality, safety, and environmental at the Newnan location. From 2009 through 2013, the company averaged five recordable injuries per year, and one year the company had 10. Despite a long-time commitment to creating a safe and healthy workplace, leaders realized they needed to do something to bring those numbers down.

The place to start was with Georgia Tech’s Safety, Health, and Environmental Services (SHES) program, a part of the Enterprise Innovation Institute, and the state’s on-site consultant for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). The on-site consultation program provides small business owners with no-cost advisory services to address hazards and improve workplace safety and health without fear of citations or penalties. Pinkerton has a long relationship with Georgia Tech, including receiving his Industrial, Health, and Safety Certification through Georgia Tech Professional Education (GTPE).


In 2012, Grenzebach began working with SHES to pursue OSHA’s Safety and Health Achievement Recognition Program (SHARP) certification. SHARP recognizes small businesses that operate exemplary safety and health programs. To qualify for SHARP, Grenzebach — and all businesses — must:

  • Request comprehensive consultation visits in safety and health that include a hazard identification survey;
  • Involve employees in the consultation process;
  • Correct all hazards identified by the consultant;
  • Implement and maintain health and safety programs as specified by OSHA;
  • Maintain days away, restricted, or transferred (DART) rates and total recordable case (TRC) rates below the national industry average;
  • Agree to notify the state consultant prior to making changes to working conditions in a facility.

Achieving SHARP status confers a number of benefits on a business. SHARP certified companies provide protection to workers through the development and implementation of best safety and health practices; create a culture that values health and safety; build a reputation for safety within their industry; save money; and are granted an exemption from OSHA programmed inspections for up to two years and subsequent renewal for up to three years.

“The real benefits to SHARP,” said Paul Schlumper, director of the SHES program, “are the improvements that a company makes in its safety and health management system to help provide a better work environment for employees. Another really big benefit is the prestige. A company can advertise the fact that they’re serious about safety and health. I think that means something to their customers and their employees.”


SHARP has been so successful for the company that Grenzebach has renewed its certification each year since 2012.

“What the SHARP certification allowed us to do is open our eyes to some of the different hazards that we took for granted every day,” Pinkerton said. And noticing those hazards has led to drastic decreases in recordable incidents for the facility.

“Since 2014, the number of recordable incidents has dropped 85%, and we are now significantly below the industry average,” Pinkerton said. “We’ve had a few milestones where we have gone a year without a recordable injury, 365 days. In fact, we recently met that goal again. But we had never gone a complete calendar year without one, until 2020.”

To achieve those stellar results, Grenzebach listened to the suggestions of the SHES team, including a safety committee that meets monthly, and implemented processes that include a focus on cleanliness. “If you don’t have a clean environment, you’re not going to have a safe environment,” Pinkerton said.

SHES helped Grenzebach empower workers to correct any hazards that they see. “If you see that broken pallet on the floor, instead of walking over it, our employees now pick it up and put it in the designated place. It removes that hazard from existence,” Pinkerton said.

Achieving SHARP certification does not mean that SHES is no longer involved. In fact, that is often just the beginning of a collaboration with a company.

“The relationship we’ve built with Georgia Tech and SHES over this process has been very beneficial,” Pinkerton said. “If I have any type of question that has to do with OSHA, or has to do with safety in general, they are able to help me. They will go above and beyond. If I have an employee concerned about the air quality or noise level in the plant, they’ll do an air quality check or a noise level check anytime I call and ask them to do it. And they provide those free of charge.”

That relationship delivers a level of security that dealing with OSHA may not bring.

“If I see changes coming in OSHA, I can contact the SHES group to get information,” Pinkerton said. “They’re my liaison to OSHA. I don’t have to contact OSHA to get an answer to a question. I can contact Georgia Tech and get that same answer, and not feel the anxiety that a person may feel contacting OSHA.”

The commitment to safety has worked its way through the entire organization, Pinkerton said.

“The people on the floor see that we legitimately care about their safety,” he said. “It’s not how fast can you make a product and get it out the door. The main thing is safety. How safely can you make that product? The atmosphere has completely changed when it comes to safety. That’s what you want. You’re trying to build a safety culture in your facility, and not have employees do something because I tell them to do it. Do it because it’s the right thing to do.”

“The SHES group is as loyal to me as I am to them. When it comes to the safety of people in the workforce, they take their jobs very seriously. I tell people all the time about SHARP and that they should become SHARP certified. The main thing that I would say about Georgia Tech and their consultation program is that they care. They don’t come in just trying to find something wrong. They come in and try to find ways for us to improve.” – Ken Pinkerton, head of facilities, quality, safety, and environmental at Grenzebach in Newnan, Georgia

Refrigerated Vehicle Specialists Deliver Safety

Note: Emerald Transportation Solutions signed a waiver of the confidentiality clause (1908.6(h)(2)) for the OSHA 21(d) Consultation program, allowing this story about the company’s work with the Safety, Health, and Environmental Services (SHES) program in Georgia Tech’s Enterprise Innovation Institute to be published.

Man working on a van with safety equipment

Customer Profile

Emerald Transportation Solutions is a privately owned, end-to-end provider of refrigerated vans and trucks. Headquartered in Fayetteville, Georgia, with a manufacturing facility in Griffin, Georgia, the company has been around since 2013 and has 65 employees.


After growing steadily from 2013 through 2019, Emerald found its business skyrocketing during the pandemic, as more and more people had groceries — and other necessities — delivered to their homes, causing an increase in the need for last-mile delivery vehicles that move products from a transportation hub to homes or businesses.

Working to meet this increased demand, Emerald outgrew its space in four buildings and two surface lots in Fayetteville and moved to a single large facility in Griffin that would allow for a streamlined assembly process under one roof. To better manage the health and safety of employees in the new facility, Emerald brought in the Safety, Health, and Environmental Services (SHES) team to survey the facility and the company’s health and safety practices and make recommendations.

SHES consultants looked at elements of Emerald’s overall safety and health management system, asking questions such as:

  • How does the company anticipate and detect hazards?
  • How does the company prevent hazards and plan for and control hazards?

Issues that were uncovered during the inspections included electrical safety, fall protection, compressed gas cylinder safety, and clearing exit routes — issues that are common in manufacturing facilities.

The health team performed contaminant and noise-level monitoring. These were found to be within guidelines. They also examined Emerald’s hazard communication program, and other health and safety documentation.


The results of Emerald Transportation Solutions and SHES working together have been to create a safer workplace for all employees by:

  • Correcting electrical hazards, including open junction boxes
  • Adding restraints to keep employees from falling off ladders, trucks, and more
  • Adding an emergency action plan
  • Making Safety Data Sheets accessible
  • Holding monthly safety meetings
  • Tracking and documenting training
  • Adding an environmental health and safety manager

“There are a lot of things that the SHES group pointed out as deficiencies that we’ve turned around and put into place to make the plant safer for our employees. We couldn’t have done all of that without SHES.” — Wes Funsch, chief operating officer, Emerald Transportation Solutions

Elevating Employee Wellbeing

This is a guest post from our partner Georgia Tech Professional Education (GTPE).

SHES team photo

Prioritizing empathy and communication will help you connect to the needs and perspectives of your workforce.

About three years after the onset of Covid-19, the pandemic’s far-reaching effects continue to alter the way we approach work. Almost overnight, Covid changed the way both employees and employers view work, and as a result, new needs and expectations for employee well-being emerged. For companies striving for stability amidst an uncertain economy and historically low unemployment, ensuring employee well-being is a critical necessity.

“Getting and keeping employees could be more difficult for companies, as there is no surge of applicants coming to the rescue,” says Paul Todd, group manager for operational excellence at Georgia Tech’s Georgia Manufacturing Extension Partnership. “Demographic trends and immigration policies combined with robust manufacturing growth will continue to put a premium on good people. To attract and retain those people, the successful employer must be the preferred choice in terms of culture, opportunity, compensation, and benefits.”

Understanding Your Workforce

To care for employees well, it’s important for organizations to understand and empathize with their individual feelings, needs, and perspectives.

“Over the past few years, people have experienced change in varying levels on a variety of different fronts. From Covid, to financial, health, and societal, everything has changed,” explains Hilarie Warren, director of Georgia Tech’s OSHA Training Institute.

“The lens that we need to look through when considering how people can arrive at work and give their best centers around knowing we’re not all the same.”

Covid-19 added a layer of complexity to workplace safety while also introducing a mass increase of remote work into the equation. With 66% of the U.S. workforce utilizing remote work at least part of the time, employers have to consider a new range of questions for workplace health and satisfaction, while remembering that everyone has a unique set of preferences and needs.

To think inclusively, proactivity is key. By frequently asking for employee feedback, companies can adjust to meet employee expectations before they rise to a breaking point.

“In today’s workplace environment, the ability to give and receive feedback is key to interpersonal and organizational effectiveness,” says LaTrese Ferguson, director of Workplace Learning and Professional Development at Georgia Tech Professional Education (GTPE). Doing this is not only an effective workplace best practice but also contributes to employee well-being in itself by demonstrating that employee voices are being heard.

In order for this to happen successfully, however, organizations are required to cultivate conditions of psychological safety.

“In a psychologically safe environment community members feel comfortable speaking up and bringing their whole selves to work without fear of judgment or punishment,” says Ferguson.

“People are encouraged to ask questions, provide disconfirming information, and offer innovative ideas without fear of negative consequences. Organizations have to make this a priority and take deliberate actions to cultivate this way of being into the day-to-day practices of the organization.”

Communication in the Future of Work

Creating and reinforcing an inclusive and empathetic culture is the first step to promoting employees’ well-being. With the knowledge that their organization cares about their well-being, employees feel safer and more content in their workplace.

However, particularly in distributed workforces, the successful alignment around goals and priorities depends on clarity. As employee needs have shifted and increased, effective communication is all the more imperative. A recent survey of manufacturing and warehouse employees asked respondents for the most effective ways that employers can improve workplace safety, and three out of the four top recommendations centered on speedy, transparent, comprehensive communication. With ever-advancing technology and noise, however, effective communication requires a thoughtful approach.

“Considering our post-pandemic era, effective communication is more of a challenge now than ever, even with our advanced collaboration tools and technology,” says Chris Carter, academic program director for project management at GTPE.

As experts estimate up to 70% of communication is nonverbal, virtual meetings, email, and chat are simply not enough to build deep, shared understanding.

“While it might not seem modern, embracing in-person, face-to-face communication practices often produces more meaningful results,” says Carter.

When in-person contexts are not an option, such as for large-scale announcements, organizations can still accomplish clarity by meeting their audiences’ expectations for timeliness and content. When communication is a priority, organizations can increase stability, trust, and productivity among employees.

The New Work-Life Balance

Another important aspect of employee well-being is flexibility. After Covid introduced remote work into the workplace, the topic of work-life balance, specifically regarding work location policy, has been thrust center stage. In a 2022 Forbes study, respondents revealed that “work-life balance” was the second most important priority in their jobs, following closely behind financial stability.

There are benefits to both remote work and in-office work, and employees have different opinions on which is better. A survey by Harvard Business Review found that, on average, managers tend to think employees are slightly more productive in the office, while individual contributors responded that they are more productive at home. In another survey by Pew Research, 64% of respondents who have transitioned to working from home since Covid say they now can now balance work with their personal life more easily. While at the same time, 60% now feel more disconnected from their co-workers.

Considering both pros and cons of remote and in-office work, organizations will need to take creative, flexible approaches to effectively support employee wellbeing. Whether that’s a hybrid model, a shorter workweek, or another solution, clear communication on the rationale behind the approach is essential to ensuring employee buy-in and satisfaction.

“If we’re pushing for hybrid or full return to work, the ‘why’ has to be explained and reasoned empathetically,” says Warren.

“If companies are not prepared to explain the benefits both to the organization and the individual worker, they’re going to a hard time selling return to work.”

Across all aspects of employee wellbeing, expectations have changed dramatically over the past few years, reminding us that the social contract between employers and employees is an ever-shifting ideal. To care for employees well, organizations must remain vigilant.

“When you’re actively prioritizing safety—figuring out the root cause of an accident or risk and taking action to change the system to mitigate or prevent it—employees read that as a level of psychological safety,” says Warren. “Moving beyond finger pointing and instead investing in real, effective solutions provides long-term payoffs for both employees and organizations.”

From the Army to MARTA – a Safety calling

This is a guest post from our partner Georgia Tech Professional Education (GTPE).

Sade Safety Consultant

How Sade Taylor found her unique calling in Workplace Safety & Health.

Sade Taylor has been working in the safety industry now for over decade. However, this was not the career path the current MARTA Systems Safety Coordinator had in mind. Read Sade’s story about her career path and why she thinks representation of women in construction is important.

Taylor started her journey while she was in the Army and stationed at Fort Gillum working in industrial hygiene. She did not think this field would end up being her future career, but Mandan Fuller, Certified Industrial Hygienist told her she had a niche for EHS and gave her a Georgia Tech OSHA course catalog. In 2011 Taylor signed up for her first course, the OSHA 521 Introduction to Industrial Hygiene. After she completed the course she said, “This is what I want to do, this is how I can see myself making an impact on people’s lives.”

Since taking that first OSHA 521 course, Taylor has taken 12 more OSHA trainings at Georgia Tech. She recommends these to anyone looking to further their career in safety. Taylor says the resources provided by the instructors are invaluable and she utilizes them on a regular basis. “It makes me confident in my job. If I do not know something I know where I can find the answer.”  She also says the instructors are what keeps her coming back to Tech. “The instructors are effective because they make it realistic. The thing I like about the classes at Tech is the open discussion within the whole class. We learn from the instructors and from each other.”

When asked about why it is important for women to be in the construction industry, Taylor discusses how women are not represented in what is known as a “male dominated industry.” “Most of the time when you go to a construction site you may be the only woman there. We can get overlooked until we display our skillsets and knowledge, then you earn that respect as a safety professional.” Taylor is a mom of two boys, ages two and ten and says “it is important for her to show them that representation and that a women’s perspective should be valued and appreciated.”

Taylor stresses the impact of leading by example for the future. “It is important to show the women coming in behind us that they can do it too. You do not have to be boxed into certain positions because you are a woman. You can get out here and put on your steel toes! You know, we have kids, a home to take care of, laundry, chauffeuring to football practices, all that good stuff, but you can still get out here. Yes, you have to pick up the kids at four but at two, you are on the construction site reviewing a JHA. Women wear so many hats on a regular basis, and we know how to put them on and take them off, that is one thing I can appreciate about us women!”

Taylor has advice for others on how they can achieve the success she has had so far. “Know your reasons of why you want to do something. For me, it is the impact I can have on people to represent women in safety. Learn as much as you can, ask questions and maintain a sense of humor. Things will not always go as planned, but that does not mean they won’t turn out well. Learn from your co-workers, there is an abundance of knowledge around me, and trust me, I utilize it all! I have found my greatest resource is my team.”

“Enjoy it, I enjoy every bit of what I do, the different people I meet, the connections and networking. I truly have a passion for it all.”


Stop Silicosis Forever

Employee cutting engineered stone

Silica Exposure Training for the Cut Stone Industry

In 2019, members of the Georgia Tech Safety, Health, Environmental Services (SHES) Industrial Hygiene team noticed silica exposure levels being reported were extremely high during regular exposure assessment visits among quartz countertop (engineered stone) fabrication workers in manufacturing plants, even when preventative controls were being used. This corresponded with the 2019 CDC Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) that reported eighteen cases of silicosis, including two fatalities, among stone fabrication workers in four states. Silicosis is an incurable occupational lung disease caused by inhaling particles of respirable crystalline silica. These particles trigger inflammation and fibrosis in the lungs, leading to progressive, irreversible, and potentially disabling disease. Silica exposure is also associated with increased risk for lung infection, lung cancer, emphysema, and other illnesses. Because quartz, a type of mineral that contains high levels of respirable crystalline silica, workers who cut, polish, or grind stone materials can be exposed to extremely high levels of silica dust.

“Since reporting cases of silicosis is not required in the State of Georgia, there is no surveillance method or way to track the number of cases or deaths, so it was important that we try and find a way prevent the exposure,” stated Jenny Houlroyd, manager of the Occupational Health Services team at Georgia Tech, who led the initiative to apply for OSHA funding to support this training effort through a Susan Hardwood Grant.

The grant was approved in 2021 and the team launched into action to gather more information. Houlroyd, joined by Principal Investigator Brandon Philpot:

After analyzing the data, Houlroyd worked with her team to develop the modules and videos for this free training, which is now available through the group’s consultation services and housed on their YouTube Channel.

To date, the program has:

  • Trained 41 people, through in-person classes/online allowing employers to administer the class to their employees
  • Created English and Spanish versions of the materials
  • Sent flash drives to interested companies of the materials which includes an instructor guide, PowerPoint slides, and documentation that they can customize for their company
  • Helped over eight companies (and counting) to implement safety measures such as safety checklists, proper PPE, and much more

Through this process, Houlroyd and Philpot heard first-hand about the dangers of working with engineered stone. “Consumers should be aware of the impact their choices make on the person manufacturing the product,” said Houlroyd, “fabricators are doing the most hazardous part of the cutting process, and because symptoms are hard to diagnose, it’s difficult for doctors to connect the dots.”

Watch their emotional discussion with Ever, a countertop fabricator, who has silicosis in this video Stop Silicosis For Ever.

Download the flyer for more information and view the videos on the SHES group’s YouTube Channel.


Kids’ Chance Mission: Providing Support to Families of Safety and Health Professionals

Kid's chance scholarship winner

Dave Mehlrose shares how he turned a negative situation into a positive impact

When Dave Mehlrose started his career as an electrician, he never imagined he would end up in a safety role, much less the leader. After being unjustly let go, at a previous company, (but then re-hired) and treated unfairly, by that same company, for a safety violation he was not properly trained on to begin with, he swore he would never treat anyone like that. “People just want to come to work, do a good job, and go home safely to their families. They may not know what all the rules are all the time, and that’s what we are here for. We aren’t safety cops; we are a resource for our people out in the field.”

Since learning about the implications that poor safety training can have on not only a company, but an individual, Dave has made it his mission to educate those around him. Today, Dave is the regional safety manager at Allison-Smith Company and says it’s “all about the education, and that’s why I choose to continue my professional development through Georgia Tech — they provide the best safety training classes.”

Resources for the Safety and Health Workforce

When a worker is severely injured or killed on the job, it doesn’t just affect them – it affects their entire family. Thinking about the future can be overwhelming, and if put off, when the time comes, the cost of higher education can be well out of reach.

The Georgia Tech OSHA Training Institute Education Center provides professional education for those with safety and health responsibilities in their workplaces, and has used a donation of one of our Safety & Health Professional Certificate Programs to benefit Kids’ Chance of Georgia for years. Kids’ Chance provides educational scholarships to the children of Georgia workers who have been seriously, catastrophically, or fatally injured in work-related accidents.

“Often, when people think of workplace safety or OSHA, they think of rules or laws. We must remember that those rules were written with immeasurable loss. They were written and established because every year, and still today, thousands of Americans died just going to work. Every one of those workers who didn’t come home – they left family, loved ones, a community behind. They left a story unfinished. The Kids’ Chance scholarships provide an opportunity for these children that might otherwise be out of reach for their family. It allows them to write another chapter,” said Hilarie Warren, Director GT OSHA Training Institute Education Center.

“The story of our certificate recipients – how they develop professionally in this field of workplace safety and health – being intertwined with the story of a Kids’ Chance scholarship recipient – it’s a chapter of hope and a chance to write their own future.”

Allison-Smith Company and Kids’ Chance Recipient

Mehlrose attended this year’s Georgia Safety, Health and Environmental Conference and placed the winning bid at the annual silent auction to win a full safety certificate in either construction or general industry from the Georgia Tech OSHA Training Institute Education Center through Georgia Tech Professional Education, a value of over $4000

This year, Mehlrose chose to pay it forward. Since he already had earned Georgia Tech’s Construction Safety Certificate, he gifted the opportunity to earn the certificate he won at the auction to his team member, Joseph McManigal, a safety professional at Allison-Smith Company.  Joseph will be able to earn his Safety and Health Certificate from Georgia Tech and continue his professional development through the support of the safety program at Allison-Smith Company and the Kids’ Chance program.

The Future of Safety

Mehlrose has taken numerous safety courses through the Georgia Tech OSHA Training Institute Education Center, starting with OSHA 500.  He is one course away from obtaining the Process Safety Management certificate and then will begin working on the Premier Occupational Safety and Health Certificate. He understands the importance of continuing education and says, “It is an absolute necessity for safety professionals. Without the resource in education, you just can’t do this job. Standards are changing and getting updated all the time. “

He sends all his employees to do their training at Georgia Tech. And when hiring, one of the selling points of working on the safety team at Allison-Smith, is that everyone will obtain training at Georgia Tech.

Sweet Success: Craft Cheese Manufacturer Pivots During Pandemic

Sweet Grass Dairy worker with cheese

In early 2020, Sweet Grass Dairy was in the midst of moving to a new larger production facility, when the COVID-19 pandemic hit and they lost nearly 78% of their business overnight. The Georgia Manufacturing Extension Partnership (GaMEP) worked with the company to shift their business from restaurants and specialty food stores to larger retailers and eCommerce customers by helping them write a food safety plan to meet new customer requirements, making improvements to their website, and reconfiguring their packaging area to accommodate new product formats.

Read the full Success Story here, and watch the video for more on how our partner GaMEP helped Sweet Grass Dairy implement a FSMA-compliant food safety plan, that also allowed them to pass audits for large retailers and customers.

From Family Legacy to Personal Passion

This is a guest post from our partner Georgia Tech Professional Education (GTPE).

Ty Hatcherson Main Image

How Ty Hatcherson found his unique calling in Workplace Safety & Health.

If there were ever an example of someone living fully in the present while keeping a trained eye on the future, that person would be Ty Hatcherson. As he nears completion of the Georgia Tech Professional Education (GTPE) Process Safety Management Program, Hatcherson is excited to bring new knowledge to a brand new job — and already thinking about where it will lead.

Family Roots

The Texas-based process operator knew from an early age that industry operations were his calling. “My father and grandfather were industrial engineers,” he says, and, as a boy, he was intrigued by the blueprints he saw them using. The future was calling.

Hatcherson went on to earn a B.S. in Industrial Technology from Texas Southern University. He launched his career as a hands-on production lead at Halliburton, a broad-ranging role that included equipment operation, team management, safety issues — and blueprint review. From there, he moved on to The Dow Chemical Company and then to Kimberly-Clark where he was a member of the team to receive the company’s 2020 Impact Award for winning innovation in a pilot project exploring the use of polymers in Kimberly-Clark’s traditionally paper products.

Discovering His Calling

When you ask Hatcherson about any of his positions, his enthusiasm is evident. This is a person who clearly enjoys his work and brings his all to each role. What drives him is the same inquiry, in whatever setting he finds himself in: “How can I help make that better? What aren’t we doing, and what do we need to be doing?”

For Hatcherson, those questions seemed to repeatedly arise in safety-related scenarios, and indeed, workplace safety has factored into each position he’s held. After a while, he realized it was something he wanted to pursue further.

“When you get out of college, you start work, and then you start to see,” he explains. “You think, ‘This is what I’m doing, but I want to do that.'” In this case, the “that” was Environmental Health and Safety. To make the transition, Hatcherson knew adding further expertise through education was the way to go. “Education can really get that going and accelerate it.”

He decided to focus on process safety management, a regulation established by OSHA that looks at all processes that involve handling, using, storing, moving, or manufacturing highly hazardous chemicals. It not only coincided with his interests but, in addition, “seemed like a hot career path.” The present and the future combined.

Pursing Professional Education

He enrolled in GTPE’s Process Safety Management Certificate Program, which is designed to increase understanding of OSHA principles and how to apply them, including hazard and protection analyses and documentation of process safety management compliance audits.

From Day One, Hatcherson was all in, frequently sharing online what he learned in class. “I am definitely excited to have completed this OSHA 511 course,” he wrote. “It informed me of how much information is missing from the day-to-day work environment.” Upon completing a Process Hazard Analysis course, he posted, “What I Learned in Class: the critical requirement for an effective PHA, the consequences of inaccurate or incomplete PHAs, how to evaluate consequences and the magnitude of harm, failure modes, human factors, and facility siting…”

His top takeaway: “Documentation!” It’s something, he says, that he’s frequently seen lacking. Working on a project, “we’d know we’d done something before. We’d done it many times. But it was never written down anywhere.”

“It’s definitely important to me to continue my education,” he says, “because in the field of operations, the process is always changing. By the process changing so much, there are equipment changes that have to be met. This certificate will help me with helping make those changes take effect.”

Tieing it All Together

Although working full-time, he fit in classes by using saved-up vacation time. The pandemic had moved classes online, and the father of two found himself in school alongside his then 11-year-old son and 5-year-old daughter. “They really liked that,” he recalls. “My daughter would say, ‘Let’s do homework together!’”

That experience was life-altering. Between commuting and working long hours on-site, “I didn’t realize how much I wasn’t there,” he reflects. It was an unexpected benefit to his decision to move into safety. “I don’t have to be present at all times,” he explains, as some work can be done from home. “It’s a better work-life balance.”

His next step is a new Process Operator job with LyondellBasell in Houston. The role includes more safety responsibilities, and Hatcherson hopes to move into a Process Safety Management position when one becomes available.

Will he pursue other professional certificates? “Oh, yes,” he says, without hesitation. “Maybe in IT, or supply chain, or HR….” As always, Hatcherson has his eye on the future, which he sees as full of possibility.

Georgia Tech Professional Education is a leader in innovative educational delivery, designed for working professionals in tech, business, and leadership. Our connection to the marketplace — coupled with our world-class faculty, researchers, and subject matter experts — provides an unparalleled perspective on education innovation, industry trends, future work, and lifelong learning. To uncover additional resources to help with questions and challenges around career advancement visit our Working & Learning page.

Taking Care of Your Employees in the Hybrid Era

This is a guest post from our partner Georgia Tech Professional Education (GTPE) featuring our Director of Georgia Tech’s OSHA Training Institute, Hilarie Warren.

two safety professionals talking

Why organizations across the globe will need to adapt and build processes that serve the needs of their people

Globally, workplaces, regardless of industry, are facing a momentous shift. While the pandemic was a catalyst for professionals to reexamine their relationship with work, it has also resulted in structural changes to employee expectations, in what is being referred to as the hybrid paradox.

While choosing how, when, and where work happens is still a top priority for talent recruitment and retention, employers are also now facing mounting pressures to support the physical, psychological, and social health of their workforces.

In the age of Covid-19, we have become acutely aware of the need to protect employees from illness and the benefit of having a comprehensive safety and health culture in place. But how can organizations now balance employees’ safety concerns. with the need for flexibility in the return to on-site work, while supporting mental health, human connection, and overall worker well-being?

As the director of Georgia Tech’s OSHA Training Institute, Hilarie Warren is familiar with emerging workplace challenges, particularly those relating to the pandemic such as psychological safety and communicable disease transmission. In response to the emerging hybrid workforce, she shares her perspective on the healthy work and workforce, and what it means for the entire safety and health profession – and beyond.

See her take on the most pressing issues below.

As workforces begin to return to work, many are adopting a hybrid approach to working. How can organizations strike a balance between maintaining a safe workplace while protecting an employee’s individual well-being and psychological security?

The “future of work” is THE phrase of 2022. The dynamic changes we have all experienced in the workplace and in our personal lives feel continuous and uncertain – daily, there is new input to integrate into decision making – and it’s exhausting. It’s no surprise that multiple recent studies report companies worldwide are struggling with expectation misalignment, increased stress and anxiety, and how to implement equitable, effective strategies that meet the needs of their diverse workforce. The concept of a “safe workplace” has expanded beyond preventing a deadly fall, hearing loss, or even following OSHA regulations – it’s about feeling valued, heard, and knowing your mental health and well-being are prioritized too.

Even in the years prior to COVID, occupational safety and health professionals were working to understand and measure the impact that certain working conditions and arrangements had on workers and their well-being (including physical, psychological, and social outcomes). The National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) Total Worker Health program is an approach that integrates work-related protections (in policy and practices) together with health promotion efforts to “advance worker well-being.” This holistic approach to enhancing worker well-being is applicable for small to large employers, and there are published questionnaires to help you get started. It’s important that organizations recognize the need for continued flexibility and adaptability when it comes to working out a framework for the next steps – there isn’t a one-size-fits-all model. Some companies and industry sectors never stopped having essential employees on the frontline; whereas others have been remote for over two years. Both scenarios – and all those in between – have impacted employees’ psychological security. Working to actively understand the challenges faced by all tiers of your organization, which may include acknowledging that many hourly, low-wage, minority, and entry-level workers were – and still are – at the highest risk for negative physical and psychological outcomes, will help find an approach that can meet all employee needs.

How does keeping employees safe on the job pay off in health, wellness, retention, and attainment of workers?

Safety and health programs are not meant to be written and stored on a shelf in a dusty corner. They are meant to be reassessed, reviewed, and improved as an integral part of your business strategy. Organizations who are willing to engage in conversation around these topics, foster transparency, ask hard questions, and take action to find and provide feedback contributes to employee wellness and retention. For example, before considering the resumption of in-person classes for our program in 2021, our instructors and staff talked at length about concerns and challenges, investigated cleaning and personal protective equipment protocols, and created policies around room capacities. We worked with facilities management to ensure adequate ventilation and air filtration measures were in place for classrooms, and put options in place to ensure instructors and students alike could move to a remote or alternative option if they ended up having to quarantine or became ill. These efforts were as much about physical health as they were about mental well-being. When an employee can trust that decisions are being made to protect their safety – and the safety and well-being of their families by proxy – stress is reduced and job satisfaction improves.

A recent Pew Research Center survey conducted by those studying the ongoing Great Resignation identified that while low pay and limited advancement opportunities are significant contributors to people leaving the workforce, another primary cited factor is feeling disrespected or devalued at work. I would put employee safety and well-being squarely into that category. When people are anxious to come to work – whether it’s fear of COVID or fear of workplace violence or any number of hazards – they are going to experience higher stress and decreased performance. They are not going to bring their best selves to the job, and that can have far-reaching ramifications. Add in fear of retaliation, potentially lost wages, and lack of access to PTO or those in alternative work arrangements – if organizations are not addressing these critical safety, health, and wellness concerns I would argue they are at risk for talent retention and recruitment. People want to work for organizations that value and respect their contributions and perspectives, and if they don’t experience that feeling, they might look elsewhere.

When it comes to health and safety, many organizations often operate reactively. When is the best time to implement new safety measures within your organization?

The sooner, the better. I encourage organizations to start with the conversation first, inclusive of stakeholders from every level: management, supervisors, people leaders, operations, and the front line – and review potential risks, severity outcomes, and available resources for control strategies. Consult with an occupational/environmental safety and health professional if you don’t have one on staff; these individuals can help organizations identify where and how to start to achieve the identified goals. The best outcomes are when the measures implemented have buy-in from all affected parties; giving employees an opportunity to be part of the decision-making process is a key component we look for when assisting companies with safety and health strategies. Those are the measures that have longevity and high employee adherence – and prevent the “fizzle out” that can occur with reactionary action.

Looking into the future, employers must reframe how they think about workplace safety, health, and wellness. When companies jump into implementing new safety measures reactively, sometimes there are unintended outcomes. For example, in the early days of COVID, we saw companies start using large quantities of new chemicals to disinfect or clean workplaces, often without appropriate employee training on the application or understanding the hazards of breathing in the airborne chemicals or getting them on the skin. To act preventively, give priority to those measures that can improve working conditions – including both physical and psychological wellbeing. Measures should be part of the daily, weekly, and monthly conversation and goals, with follow-up assignments and accountability. Without full championing and investment from the top level of the organization, new safety and health initiatives can wither and fade away – until the next crisis arrives.

The Georgia Tech OSHA Training Institute Education Center offers safety and health courses in more than 20 topics throughout Region IV, an area covering Florida, Georgia, Alabama, South Carolina, North Carolina, Mississippi, Tennessee, and Kentucky. For more information about how you can build immediately applicable skills, address the needs of your employer, and stay current with OSHA guidelines, visit our safety and health training page.

National Safety Month: Top OSHA Violations

This is a guest post from our partner Georgia Tech Professional Education (GTPE).

Safety professionials meeting

From construction to general industry, here are the top five most frequently cited standards and the training solutions to avoid costly fines

Jobs in industries such as construction and manufacturing are prone to high numbers of work-related injuries largely due in part to their use of industrial machinery, as well as the nature of the work itself and the spaces in which the jobs must be performed. While some of the most common accidents are the result of employees slipping and falling in the workplace, other on-the-job injuries include electrical injuries, getting struck by an object, or getting caught in-between equipment and structures.

Each year, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) releases its list of top frequently cited standards as a resource for employers to determine the top hazards in the industry they service. In 2021, the top 10 violations on the list, which encompasses both the construction and general industry, totaled 24,550.

As part of National Safety Month, we’re delving into the top five violations, along with suggested OSHA training solutions that can help guide your internal safety audit programs.

Fall Protection – General Requirements

Total Violations: 5,295

OSHA statistics have shown that falls are the leading cause of U.S. construction site deaths and year after year, fall protection continues to top the list. Covering both construction and all other industries, citations are most often issued for lack of fall protection measures such as guardrails, covering floor openings, and personal fall arrest systems.

Training Solutions: OSHA 510 and OSHA 3115

Respiratory Protection

Total Violations: 2,527

While respiratory protection is one of the easiest of the standards with which to comply, it’s often one employers overlook or ignore. The most common violation of the standard is failure to have workers undergo medical evaluation prior to respirator use. Other violations include not having a written respiratory protection plan and not providing employees with adequate fit tests before initial use and annually thereafter. Failure to conduct air sampling to select the correct type of respirator is also a common violation and can have deadly results.

Training Solutions: OSHA 511OSHA 521OSHA 2225, and EST 7009


Total Violations: 2,026

Stairways and ladders are major sources of injuries and fatalities among health and safety workers and used in both construction and general industry. In general, there are three categories of ladders used in the workplace: stepladders, portable ladders, and fixed ladders. OSHA has general rules that apply to all ladders, as well as specific regulations for how much weight a ladder can bear to the position of a ladder and even ladder care and maintenance. Most OSHA violations related to ladders result in simple misuse and mismeasurement.

Training Solutions: OSHA 510OSHA 511, and OSHA 3115


Total Violations: 1,948

The second fall-related violation, scaffolding, accounts for 65% of the day-to-day work in the construction industry. Common citations include not protecting employees from falling to a lower level, not fully planking the entire scaffold, and not providing safe access to scaffold platforms.

Training Solutions: OSHA 510 and Scaffolding Safety

Hazard Communication

Total Violations: 1,947

In industries where workers might be exposed to hazardous materials, it is critical to protect worker health. Correct handling and disposal of toxic substances at the industry level requires proven skills, knowledge, and competence from workers. OSHA’s standards for handling hazardous materials ensure clear communication of hazard information on chemical labels and also require training sessions for workers on the potential environmental and biological effects of these materials and the OSHA-approved procedures for handling them.

Training Solutions: OSHA 511 and OSHA 521

OSHA-Related Training Saves You Money

Failing to be in compliance and violating these standards can be very costly to the lives of your employees and the livelihood of your company. In 2020, the U.S. experienced 55.4 million workplace injuries resulting in over $1 billion in associated costs, according to the National Safety Council.

To reduce the risk and cost of injury, employers should ensure all workers have access to adequate training, while implementing a comprehensive health and safety program.

As an authorized OSHA Training Institute Education Center, Georgia Tech Professional Education offers nationally recognized OSHA training for the construction and general industries. From flexible training courses to in-depth program certificates and a Master’s in Occupational Safety and Health degree, we offer valuable safety and health solutions to help you and your employees identify hazards in your workplace and the on-the-job knowledge to prevent them.

For more information on our other Safety and Health Services, visit our Consultation page.