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Career Story: Textile Lab Safety Manager

Textile Lab Safety Manager

Job Title: Lab Manager

Type of Company: My company is a research and marketing organization that supports the textile industry.

Education: BS, Chemistry, North Carolina State University •• BS, Textile Chemistry, North Carolina State University •• MS Textile Chemistry, North Carolina State University

Previous Experience: I had two internships-one at a textile mill and one at a chemical company doing research. My only other work experience was the research I did for my graduate degree.

Job Tasks: I oversee testing in the analytical chemistry lab, setting workflow priorities and managing several technicians who do the actual testing, clean-up and maintenance of the lab equipment. Sometimes I still get to do testing and research applications. But most of the time I'm in meetings to discuss research plans, results, testing, standards, or other matters. I deal with the budget, write regular activity reports and perform other administrative duties (such as interviewing, training, approvals, etc.). I am also the primary chemical safety person for the company. For that job I review safety, do training, and ensure that regulatory paperwork is handled properly. I am also involved in many industry committees that work on standards for testing and safety, so I travel to meetings and represent our company in larger groups.

Best and Worst Parts of the Job: The most interesting parts of the job are the puzzles that we get to solve in the lab. We have to figure out what tests to do and what the results mean. The nature of the research is that the testing varies a lot, which keeps it challenging.

The worst part is dealing with people and their attitudes. It can be difficult with various personalities to keep things running smoothly. I travel quite a bit and that can get old and also makes it more difficult to keep up with lab activities sometimes.

Job Tips: If you want to be involved in safety, getting certified as a professional is a big help since that means you have to have the coursework and the job experience. To gain the experience start volunteering to take on small safety assignments and training classes. To be a lab manager, it helps to be trained and somewhat knowledgeable about all of the procedures and equipment that are used. You will need to spend several years just learning those basics. The biggest factor is learning what type of leader or manager you are and what you need to do to handle people.

Additional Thoughts: The two things that surprise people most are that there is still a textile industry in this country and the number of different things that I do. When you work at a fairly small company you should be prepared to do a lot of different jobs even if they are not in your job description.

I am sometimes surprised that I have found the niche that I have in safety. If I could change one thing I would do my Ph.D. in safety.

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