James R. Thornton, CSP, CIH recently retired as Director, EH&S at Huntington Ingalls Industries (HII). HII is the nation's leading designer, builder and refueler of nuclear and non-nuclear aircraft carriers, submarines, and surface vessels. With 40,000 employees and $8B in annual sales, HII is the nation’s largest OSHA Voluntary Protection Program STAR site. Mr. Thornton held previous positions in safety and health at Research Triangle Institute in Research Triangle Park, N.C. and the Tennessee Valley Authority in Muscle Shoals, Alabama.
Mr. Thornton holds a B.S. in Aerospace Engineering from Auburn University, and an M.S. in Industrial Hygiene from Texas A&M University. He is a Board-Certified Safety Professional and Industrial Hygienist. He has taught safety and health courses at Old Dominion University in Virginia.
Mr. Thornton is former Vice President of the Council on Professional Affairs for ASSP. He is a recipient of the Society’s Culbertson and Presidents Award and is a Fellow of the American Industrial Hygiene Association. He served as Chairman of the OSHA Maritime Advisory Committee for Safety and Health (MACOSH) and is a recipient of the U.S. Department of Labor Distinguished Service Impact Award for his work with OSHA.
Mr. Thornton also served as President of the American Industrial Hygiene Association and Chairman of the American Board of Industrial Hygiene. He served as President of the Virginia Self-Insurers Workers Compensation Association, and Chairman of the Virginia Manufacturers Association’s Safety, Health, and Environmental Committee. Mr. Thornton is also past President of the Virginia Peninsula Chapter for the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
I am committed to this noble profession. I believe that it is our duty as safety and health professionals to ensure that every worker goes home safely to their family at the end of their work shift.
This profession has been good to me, and I feel a great responsibility to continue to give back to it. Although I have served ASSP and other S&H organizations in leadership positions, there remain many opportunities to make a positive difference in people’s lives. Accordingly, I present myself to you as a candidate for the position of Senior Vice President of the Society. If I am fortunate to be elected, there are several initiatives that are consistent with the current Society Strategic Plan which I believe will positively assist the many thousands of safety professionals working each day to make life better for workers:
- Value of the Profession – I believe that the safety profession is undervalued in many ways. We could increase it by advocating that regulatory standards include a requirement that qualified professionals be required to be engaged in the implementation of those programs. It is remarkable that OSHA standards contain precise specification provisions, but remain silent on the requirement that S&H programs and their elements be managed by qualified professionals.
- Safety and Health Research – I am pleased that efforts have been made by ASSP to promote the value of practical research to identify even more methods to reduce injuries and illnesses. I would continue and accelerate efforts to identify champions and sponsors of focused research projects that will provide all of our members new tools to reduce injuries and illnesses.
- Total Worker Health – As safety professionals, our historical approach has been to develop and implement programs that ensure workers entering the workspace leave it no worse that when they came. A more holistic approach would ensure that workers enter the workspace in the best possible condition to cope with the many hazards that they will encounter in their job duties.
- Advocacy – Historically, we have reacted to proposed regulations that potentially affect our profession. However, we should identify and advocate for issues and programs that advance our strategic plan and profession in D.C.
- Emerging/Young Professionals – We have a number of bright, new professionals entering the safety profession. We must tailor our educational programs and other learning experiences to provide to them the greatest opportunity to become the most effective. After all, they represent our future.
- Diversity and Inclusion – We must continue our efforts to embrace and advance diversity of thinking in our profession. Each of us brings unique experiences and perspectives that contribute to our quest to eliminate all injuries and illnesses, and we must provide the platforms and environment for those thoughts to be shared.
In closing, if elected I pledge to promote the implementation of the initiatives described above and others that support safety and health professionals, the objectives of the Society, and our wonderful profession. Thank you for what you do daily to make people’s lives better and safer.