Jerry Sjogren joined ISRI in October as senior director of safety. He comes to the association with 30 years of industry environmental, health & safety (EHS) and transportation experience. He joined ISRI from Westborough, Mass.-based E.L. Harvey & Sons where he managed the development and administration of the company’s safety program and environmental issues, including compliance with all levels of related government regulations.
In addition to multiple EHS certifications, Sjogren has training in employee relations and government compliance subjects. He has presented at various professional affiliated meetings and seminars. Far from being a newcomer to ISRI, Sjogren has held many volunteer leadership positions, including:
Sjogren chatted recently with Scrap News about how his knowledge, training, and experience aligns well with the ISRI safety team’s programming and direction.
Tell us about your journey to where you are today.
I was a recycler back in 1978, as a part-time venture. My dad and I tore down an old high school by hand, brick by brick. We sold the recyclable materials out of that building. It took us a year to take it down because we both had regular jobs. It was quite a learning experience!
I started [work] as a dairy farmer, working for a gentleman milking cows, 60 head, 4 a.m. and 4 p.m. every day. I did all the farming-related things, whether it be equipment maintenance or haying or cutting corn, barn chores, taking care of the cows, veterinary stuff—the whole gamut. We had a family farm, so I grew up around animals: chickens, cows, horses, and pigs.
I tried college and decided it wasn’t for me. I had a background as a welder. My dad was a welder and then became an engineer. I went to work for a valve manufacturer and learned the hardest process, TIG [tungsten inert gas] welding, first, then I went to trade school and learned the other aspects of welding.
I left [that job] and went to work for the local power company. That was a pretty cool part of my career: I worked in fossil fuel, hydroelectric, and nuclear power plants. I learned a lot about the basics of safety and some engineering material. After I left, I worked for a fabrication shop, to learn more about the fabrication side of welding.
I worked in the sand and gravel industry for the fabrication shop and took a job in the sand and gravel concrete business. I became a quarry superintendent. We had a stone quarry where we could crush 400 tons per hour. It was a brand-new quarry, and I lost the job because the neighbors didn’t want the quarry. Our permits were pulled.
I couldn’t make ends meet on unemployment, so I worked for a friend as a welder, and he introduced me to the Harvey family. I was hired by E.L. Harvey & Sons in 1991. I started out as a welder, and quickly got into the safety role and developed the safety program there from the ground up. We had 84 employees back then, and when I left, we had close to 350.
What are the highlights of your career?
I created a safety program: It wasn’t perfect, but I created it, and I’m proud of that. I think being involved in [industry events] nationally, which [E.L. Harvey & Sons CEO] Jim Harvey & Family allowed me to do, has been really exciting for me. I have worked really hard to make the industry safer, whether it be through ANSI (American National Standards Institute) committees or other national safety committees and councils.
The ability to help others has been huge for me. I have helped a ton of employees over the years, whether that be employees who are having personal problems, health problems, or injuries. We’ve built a network of professionals through the hospital system. I have friends who are back surgeons [or specialize in] orthopedics, knees, shoulders, elbows; I know I can call on [them] to help others. I truly believe that our purpose is to help other people.
How did you decide to apply for the job at ISRI?
When word got out that E.L. Harvey & Sons had been sold, I received a whole bunch of calls from different places. I had a conversation with Tony [Smith, ISRI’s vice president of safety], and there happened to be a vacancy [at ISRI]. I thought I would be able to stay involved in the industry nationally and make a difference, so that was one of my reasons for going in that direction.
What are the most rewarding things you’ve done with ISRI over the years?
We have come a long way with ISRI’s Safety and Environmental Conference (ISEC). Mentoring and helping other people and the network we built have been invaluable. I can pick up the phone and call people across the country and say, “Hey, have you encountered this or that issue?” and they can guide me to that answer.
We guided our members through [COVID-19] through conversation and research. We have set standards working with ANSI for safety throughout our industry, whether it be for equipment or our facilities. I have seen a positive shift in safety in the industry over the years.
What do you most look forward to doing while working at ISRI?
More of the same! I really like being involved in trying to move the needle in our industry and make our industry safer. I want to continue looking for ways to help others and answering their needs. I’ve developed friendships with a lot of people at ISRI over the years and staying involved with them is a really cool thing for me.
To contact Jerry Sjogren, call (202) 662-8519 or email.
Photo courtesy of ‘Jerry Sjogren.