Member Spotlight | Chris Gates

When did you begin your safety career?  Where did you work and what were your responsibilities?

I started to work in safety full-time in November, 1971. I had been an additional duty safety person for about two years before that.  At that time, I was serving in the U.S. Air Force at Vandenberg AFB (Air Force Base) in California. My Air Force career took me from Vandenberg AFB to Guam, Texas, Germany, George AFB (CA), Incirlik AB, Turkey, Vandenberg AFB, Hickam AFB, HI, and Norton AFB, CA. My role varied at each location, but all duties were related to preventing injury to personnel and damage to property while applying lessons learned to prevent or reduce the impact of future mishaps. 

I retired from the U.S. Air Force on April 1, 1990, after over 25 years of service.  I then worked for Rockwell Autonetics, California Casualty Management Company (Workers Compensation), California JPIA (a public agency insurance pool), Boeing Expendable Launch Systems, and the County of San Bernardino, CA.  Again, my role varied, but I mostly applied my experience and education to the reduction the risk of employee injury and/or damage to County property.  I retired from the County of San Bernardino on December 30, 2011.  A significant portion of my time with the county was devoted to office ergonomics and responding to employee complaints of indoor air issues (mostly in leased facilities).  After my second retirement, I did some consulting for a non-profit.  One project involved inspections of city owned/occupied facilities.  Another project involved ergonomic assessments for employees who had documented permanent partial disabilities.

How long have you worked in Occupational Safety & Health (OSH)?

I worked in OSH roles full time from November 1971 until January 2012. Later, I consulted for an OSH not for profit.

What do you like most about working in OSH?

Working in the OSH career field allowed me to apply my experience and education to work with technical and subject matter experts to reduce the likelihood of employee injury and/or damage to employer property.

Do you have any memorable experiences as an OSH professional you would like to share?

While working in the Federal environment, I identified shortfalls in the inspection, test, and maintenance instructions for a crane that was designed to be broken down for transport in cargo aircraft. I worked with the agency that was responsible for these instructions to add the needed details to ensure that these cranes were maintained, inspected, and tested in compliance with Department of Labor regulatory standards.

Why are you a member of ASSP and what value have you found in being a member?

I joined ASSP (formerly ASSE) in 1985 while I was stationed at Hickam AFB, HI.  When I returned to the Continental U.S., I served as a Chapter President. Later, I served as a member of several ASSP committees and task forces. I served in several positions (including Administrator) with the ASSP Management Practice Specialty. I was the Chairman of the ASSP Military Branch for several years until it became a Practice Specialty in 2019. I found membership in ASSP to be an avenue to provide coaching to others in the profession who had a less diverse background and had not experienced the challenges that I had been successful in conquering.