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James R. Thornton

Jim Thornton

James R. Thornton, CSP, CIH, FASSP, FAIHA, became the 109th president of the American Society of Safety Professionals (ASSP) on July 1, 2023, serving a one-year term. He also serves as chair of the ASSP Foundation, the Society's charitable arm, in his dual leadership role. He has been an ASSP member since 1998 and lives in Hampton, VA.

Thornton has more than 50 years of workplace safety and health experience. He is president of consulting firm Alpha Industries LLC following a 40-year career directing safety, health and environment at Huntington Ingalls Industries, the largest builder and repairer of U.S. Navy nuclear-powered aircraft carriers and submarines. He led the creation of a three-story primary healthcare center for families of maritime workers that serves more than 60,000 people.

Prior to his time at the shipyard, Thornton worked for the Tennessee Valley Authority and the Research Triangle Institute from 1971-76.

Thornton has given ASSP a strong presence in Washington, D.C., through his extensive work in government affairs over many years. He earned the Society’s President’s Award and is a two-time recipient of the Charles V. Culbertson Outstanding Volunteer Service Award. He also taught occupational safety and health courses at two colleges in Virginia.

In 2020, Thornton became an ASSP Fellow – the Society’s highest honor – for his significant contributions to the occupational safety and health profession. He holds a bachelor’s degree in aerospace engineering from Auburn University and a master’s degree in industrial hygiene from Texas A&M University.

Thornton chaired the OSHA Maritime Advisory Committee for Safety and Health from 2003 to 2016 and is a recipient of the U.S. Department of Labor Distinguished Service Impact Award for his work with OSHA.

Thornton believes in comprehensive worker well-being to holistically address an employee’s safety and health, moving beyond traditional wellness initiatives. He also supports diversity, equity and inclusion, leading ASSP’s commitment to principles of fairness, respect and equitable opportunities for all. And he promotes the continuous improvement of safety professionals no matter their career level, stressing the need for staying current on workplace safety strategies while possessing a strong business acumen.

Among the many organizations he supports as a volunteer is the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, which helps find homes for surrendered animals and provides education on responsible pet care.

Thornton and his wife, Donna, have been married for 52 years and have one daughter and three grandchildren. They were childhood sweethearts who grew up only three blocks apart in Alabama.

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