April 28, 2020 — Southwest Research Institute Senior Safety Engineer Matthew Herron, P.E., CSP, CPE, has been awarded the 2020 Emerging Professional Award by the American Society of Safety Professionals (ASSP). The award recognizes Herron’s leadership, volunteerism, and desire to impact workplace safety.
“This is a tremendous honor, and it feels wonderful to be recognized by an organization I have been a member of for many years,” Herron said. “As safety professionals, we want everybody to go home safely every day. That’s really what the job is all about.”
Herron is among five recipients chosen for the inaugural award from a field of hundreds of ASSP members who are under 40 years old or have fewer than five years of work experience in the occupational safety and health field.
Along with the award, Herron will participate in a year-long professional development program that includes being mentored by an ASSP Fellow or a former ASSP Society President. He will also have opportunities to sit on ASSP Councils and Committees, engage with the Board of Directors, and join safety and health discussions with the organization’s executive leadership teams.
“Safety engineers use engineering principles and scientific data to protect people, property, and the environment,” he said. “We have a very wide breadth and depth to our field. We deal with everything from hazardous material management, to ergonomics, to electrical safety, etc. in the service of protecting people.”
Herron earned a bachelor’s degree in physics from the University of West Georgia in 2006 and became a product test technician before discovering his true calling as a safety engineer. He then returned to school to earn a master’s degree in Industrial and Operations Engineering (with a concentration in Occupational Safety Engineering and Ergonomics) from the University of Michigan. Herron worked for Toyota and Lockheed Martin before joining SwRI in 2016.
During his time at SwRI, Herron developed the Safety 360 Program. “This innovative program promotes a safety culture that empowers employees to proactively identify and report unsafe conditions and at-risk behaviors in the workplace as well as providing them with an outlet to give their suggestions to correct these issues,” he said. “This method combines four essential safety management components, namely hazard identification, stop-work authority, employee participation, and management leadership, into a successful safety program.”
“We’re just like any other engineer,” he said. “We’re problem solvers. However, we approach a challenge from a safety perspective and use all the tools in our toolbox to ensure that we’ve identified all the hazards in the workplace, assessed the risks, and implemented the proper controls to eliminate or mitigate those hazards.”
Herron will receive the award and begin the professional development program at ASSP’s Annual Professional Development Conference in June, if it is not postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.