OSH Generations: James VanValkenburg

We are always looking for ASSE members to share their stories of following a parent into the OSH profession or having a son or daughter follow in their footsteps of spreading the safety message. Here’s the story of James VanValkenburg, CSP, a professional member of ASSE’s Greater Detroit Chapter.

James VanValkenburg with his two sons and his wife.

A girl that I met from a neighboring dorm also changed her degree to Industrial Health and Safety, and we finished our time at OU. We married shortly after graduating and have been together just shy of 30 years, even raised two sons.

That brings me to the next stage of the story, as both of our sons also attended OU and played on the college’s Division III club hockey team. Our eldest son had intentions of obtaining a nursing degree, but was second guessing his career choice, and asked if I could meet him and a teammate from the hockey team to talk about jobs that I’ve had and the safety field in general.

I met my son and his teammate before a night practice and I spoke for about 2 hours, discussing everything I could think of about safety (e.g., curriculum, safety within different types of industry, normal job duties). I must have intrigued them, because the next semester, they both changed their major to Occupational Safety and Health (OSH), formerly known back in my day as Industrial Health and Safety (IHS).

Since the talk back in 2014, both my son and his former teammate have graduated and obtained OSH positions within two different Fortune 100 companies, and are doing quite well. Furthermore, since my informal “Safety Career Day” discussion at the ice rink back in 2014, another five players from the hockey team have graduated or will graduate in OU’s OSH program.

I consider myself fortunate to have had a successful safety career to date and, like others, have had many memorable career moments. However, I can honestly say that none of the working moments exceed the sense of pride and joy I have knowing that my guidance and mentoring to a couple of D3 club hockey players would result not only in them graduating and being successful, but also how they paid it forward, resulting in more fine men making their mark on the world in the OSH field.