Meet health and safety practitioner, Alanna Garrison, and find out her secret talents, what she loves about helping people through health and safety, and more.
Area(s) of expertise:
About Me in 140 Characters:
I am an avid trail runner, passionate pit bull mom, cancer survivor, and purveyor of the perfect fig.
Favorite thing about being a health and safety practitioner:
Health and safety has a very practical application and can make an actual difference in someone’s life from a “do they go home in one piece at the end of the day” perspective. I deal with regulation mumbo jumbo, but the gist is I want people to go home with all of their fingers and toes. I have to think: How do we take a step back and change either the behavior or the conditions to fix that hazard? I’m happy when I can make a difference for someone, and being well-versed in many aspects of EHS allows me to make a difference in many ways.
What is a key ingredient for success as a health and safety practitioner?
It isn’t knowing the regulations. The key for me is effectively communicating and understanding where a person is coming from in order to effect a change, usually a behavior change. If you can’t read people and try to put yourself in their shoes, it’s really hard to make that change successful in terms of short- and long-term impact. Being able to communicate, not manipulate, in a way that doesn’t sound like a heavy-handed “you have to do it because the rules say you have to,” is extremely important. I approach what I do with my clients like this: people do the things they do for certain reasons and we have to help them make a change in the way that makes sense to them.
What surprises people about your job?
People usually give me a blank look after I give a speech about what I do. I give them lots of examples: the different types of clients I work for and the sorts of regulations I work within. People are surprised about the breadth of my clients--from the chemical industry, heavy manufacturing, tech, offices, and retail—all of the different places where I can apply what I do day-to-day. They don’t think that what I do can touch that many different areas.
What do you consider your biggest professional achievement so far?
I have a lot of letters after my name and that’s all well and good. From a professional standpoint, mentoring the next crop of health and safety and industrial hygiene professionals is huge to me. Getting to where I am and hopefully being a role model for other young women who are interested in the safety field, which traditionally does not have a ton of women in it, is important to me. For me to hear that somebody that I’ve been working with has achieved their own professional certification or them getting to the point in their project where they can take it and run with it makes my heart sing. I love seeing success in others that I’ve impacted.
I am a cancer survivor, and I spent about six years being a charity running coach for a fundraising charity. There, I coached a lot of people to run their first half or full marathon. To see them grow from not being able to run three steps to crossing the finish line – for me to be able to replicate that now professionally makes me so excited. When the young women I’ve mentored do a great job and they achieve something – that is so awesome to see.
When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I wanted to be an astronaut. I pestered my parents to send me to space camp, I went, had a great time, and came out wanting to be an engineer. I should have been flying out in the stars somewhere but instead, I’m in my yard and that’s okay.
If you had one month off, where would you go or what would you do?
I would love to do a long-distance run/hike through Tibet. One of my pipe-dream goals is to get there and do it on foot, 20 miles each day, surrounding myself with incredible beauty and culture.
Is there something unique that people might not know about you? (hobbies, hidden talents, etc.)
I love to dance – I used to dance with a modern dance company in college. And most particularly, I really enjoy dancing with no music. I studied a type of Japanese improv called Buto – dancing with no sound– and it was a profound experience for me.
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