OSH Generations is about family and the safety profession. Many OSH professionals have parents or children who are also in the profession. Our members share their stories of the people who influenced them to enter the safety profession or those who they inspired to become safety professionals. Here is the story of Rick Zimmerman, a professional member of our Lower Columbia Basic Chapter. This story was originally published in the May 2012 issue of
As a young child I vividly remember Sunday dinners where Grandpa lead the prayer. He did so by folding his hands, which were missing several fingers, and his hearing aid whistling away with feedback. I later learned that he lost his fingers and damaged his hearing while working at the family grain mill. This was the beginning of my interest in safety and preventing injuries. As a college student in the mid-70s, I was home for the weekend mowing my parents’ lawn wondering what career I should pursue and thinking about an article about Oregon State University forming a Safety Studies degree program. That was the beginning of my pursuit of a meaningful career in safety that has spanned 3 decades.
In doing so, I broke the family tradition and became an electrical engineer. However, I soon realized that I was following in some of my dad’s footsteps as he was deeply involved in training and testing electrical inspectors and was also a member on an NFPA 70 National Electrical Code panel. Discussion about his code panel work helped me realize that some changes do not happen overnight. His saying “You don’t have problems, just opportunities” has helped me look for successes in all that has come my way.