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's the story of Allison Short, a safety and health specialist at Auburn University's risk management and safety department, and her father, Kevin Gantz. In this OSH Generations, we spoke with Allison and her father to learn about their safety journey and hear how the safety profession has impacted their relationship.
From an early age, Allison Short, CSP, a professional member of our Georgia Chapter and a member of our Women in Safety Excellence Common Interest Group, knew about the safety profession because her father, Kevin Gantz, was in the profession. She fondly remembers sitting with her brothers as her father showed them safety videos and photos of sites with safety concerns. Among them were the “Nurse Vera” videos—safety training videos that simplified safety concepts in a quirky way.
“I was doing some training and one of the tools were these Nurse Vera videos that I had to watch sometimes two or three times a week during the training,” Gantz says. “You couldn't help but enjoy watching it, so I just had to play it for the kids. In one video, Nurse Vera explains routes of entry of toxicity by taking a gingerbread cookie man and explaining very simply that the eyes, ears and nose are all routes of entry if you get punctured. That one just stuck in my head because it was funny that she was pointing at this gingerbread man and using it as a simple tool to help explain potentially complicated OSHA regulatory type things.”
Short started off as a dance education major in college. Originally, she intended to start teaching, “with lofty goals of changing the world of art education,” she says. After completing her student teaching, Short realized this wasn’t the right path for her, so she set out in search of another field. Her original mentor, Steve Ballew, was working as a safety manager and gave her the idea to start a career in safety as well as pursue CSP certification.
Short says that her father did not expect her change from dance education to safety. “I think he was maybe a little shocked but also kind of excited,” she says. “It was fun because I got to talk to him about my work, ask questions and have this built-in auditor that I could ask what he would do in a given scenario.”
While the change was unexpected, Gantz recognized that his daughter possessed many qualities that would help her in the safety profession.
“We always encouraged her to follow her heart's desire,” Gantz says. “She is a very passionate person and certainly I think she'll tell you that her teaching certifications and learning how to be up in front of people and to engage with people, all that experience that she got through dance really played into it. If you're not comfortable getting up in front of and meeting people, and ultimately if you want to be effective, you have to entertain people. You have to keep people's attention. You have to be engaging, interesting, colorful and lively. Alison is a natural at that, being on stage and getting people’s attention is something she's been doing her whole life. So, it was a pretty easy move for her.”
As an auditor who has been in the OSH profession for 35 years, Gantz didn’t plan to enter the safety field either. He started out with a degree in geology with the goal of entering the oil and gas industry. Instead, he worked for a small engineering company where he did personnel sampling for respirable lead dust. “At that time [in the mid ‘80s], I don't think the terms ‘environmental consultant’ or ‘environmental consulting firm’ really existed,” Gantz says. “At that point in my career, if you'd asked me if I was doing safety work, I wouldn’t have thought so. I just thought I was working for an engineering firm, and that was the kind of work you did there.”
Since his daughter joined the safety profession, Gantz has been motivated to do more to keep up to date. “The fact that Allison is in the safety profession has probably amped up my feelings of being better at what I do,” he says. “I see what she's doing, and I know that I can't get lazy at my end of the scale. She has sort of pushed me to read up on what's going on and to stay current. Sometimes, she'll ask me questions and I don't always know the answer, so I go back and do a bit more studying to catch up and learn more.”
Short’s father has equally inspired her. She recalls a story of her father’s about of an audit that he conducted at a site in Central America. Gantz had to deliver his closing statements to the workers at the facility, so he asked some colleagues to translate his statement into Spanish and then memorized it so everyone in the facility understood the findings of the audit. “It really meant a lot, just taking that effort to actually communicate with the people at the different plants,” Short says. “What I've learned most from doing the job that my dad has done or is continuing to do is about showing up and actually talking to the people that are doing the work and meeting them where they are so that whatever systems or programs or trainings you're trying to do for those people, if you understand where they're coming from, then those systems and programs are actually effective and are actually going to be sustainable.”
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