Preventing Errors as a Career: Alumnus Found His Fit at University of Findlay
This is the fourth in a summer series of alumni spotlights focusing on graduates of Orrville High School in Orrville, Ohio who went on to major in what was formerly known as the Environmental, Safety and Occupational Health program, and is now known as Environment, Health, Safety and Sustainability at University of Findlay. All of the articles in this series were written by Randy Van Dyne, who directed University of Findlay’s All Hazards Training Center, and was also an instructor, before retiring in 2019.
Tim Richards ’05 learned about the Environmental, Safety and Occupational Health (ESOH) Program (now Environment, Health, Safety and Sustainability – EHSS) at University of Findlay during an environmental sciences course in high school. According to him, there were many things that were attractive about Findlay and the program, including the class size and student/ professor ratio, the overall campus size and look, and a variety of hands-on learning opportunities within the program. Richards made his final decision to attend UF because it was his program of desire, and the school that “fit” what he was looking for in a learning environment.
While at Findlay, Richards participated in intramural sports and was a member of OESHA (Occupational & Environmental Site Assessment). He did not have an official internship, but worked his last year of undergraduate and during his graduate work at the Medical College of Ohio as a research assistant. He also undertook multiple work study positions on campus, including as a lab assistant, and obtained his bachelor’s degree in 2005. Richards is currently just a few hours short of a Master’s in EHS from Findlay as well.
Upon graduation, Richards held positions with several companies, including senior environmental engineer with Eaton Inoac Company in Fremont, Ohio from 2006 to 2009. His responsibilities included major air compliance, reporting and permitting requirements as well as RCRA, CERCLA, SARA, SWPPP-SPCC regulations. From 2009-2013, he operated his own consulting business, TJR Environmental Safety Occupational Health Consulting, where he developed and implemented EHS management systems for his clients, and obtained new clients and contracts for business growth. From mid-2011 until the end of 2012, Richards was the EHS Manager for Okamoto in Sandusky, Ohio. His responsibilities included the development of a comprehensive risk based EHS system for company startup. He provided assistance for production line designs and installations for the company to achieve cost effective manufacturing, along with coaching and education to front line leaders. He established goals for process improvement and a key performance measurable for company improvements and reviews, and also assisted in the development of a business plan and capital budgeting.
In January of 2013, he started his work with PPG Industries. Progressive roles led him to Monroeville, Pennsylvania, however, currently, his office is located in Fremont, Ohio, where he is the global manager of human and organizational performance, and is responsible for leading the global implementation of PPG’s Human and Organizational Performance (HOP) initiative, a science-based approach to understanding how and why people make errors and what can be done to eliminate them.
Richards said he believes the most productive courses and programs taken as a student at UF were the Industrial Hygiene (IH) courses, due to the ability to perform hands-on IH exercises in the Ventilation Lab. He added that what he likes most about the EHS profession as a result of his education is the ability to assist people in their day to day activities by giving them tools to recognize “error likely” situations and prevent those situations from happening.
His fondest memory while at UF was meeting his wife, Jessica (McDermit) Richards, a fellow 2005 graduate with a dual major in social work and psychology. Tim and Jessica held their marriage ceremony on the UF campus.
As far as advice to students, he offered that “if you like making a difference every day and working with people and using practical applications of science on a daily basis, then a career in EHS is worth pursuing.”