Building a Safety Powerhouse

Gail Grueser and Joe Ventura of Safety Controls Technology discuss versatility, the occupational-safety and health-engineering industry, and growth strategy

EVERY DAY IS DIFFERENT for Gail Grueser (right) of Safety Controls Technology. “One day, I’m working with Joe (Ventura; general manager, pictured on left) on reviewing engineering plans for a factory’s safety standards. Tomorrow, I’ll assist in providing flu vaccines for workers at a local manufacturing facility,” Grueser says. “It makes for a great work environment.”

While social work, teaching, and engineering vocations seem to have little in common, Gail Grueser combined these distinct disciplines to form Bedford Heights, Ohio-based Safety Controls Technology (SCT)—one of the fastest growing occupational-safety and health-engineering firms in the United States today. Profile spoke with Grueser and SCT general manager Joe Ventura about SCT’s strategies for success in this niche market.

How did you first enter the safety and health-engineering field?

Grueser: I’ve always been fascinated with organizational-safety programs. I frequently served on the health and safety committees of the schools where I worked. Eventually, I considered doing such work on a regular basis. I decided to pursue my interest by starting Safety Controls Technology in 1999.

What was your growth strategy for the company?

Grueser: As firms became more familiar and impressed with our quality of work, they requested that SCT expand into more comprehensive occupational and health-safety training. This enabled us to become a major player in this highly specialized industry. For instance, SCT was honored by the Case Western Reserve University Weatherhead School of Management, which is a nationally recognized leader in advanced degrees in management, with its coveted Weatherhead 100 Award as one of northeast Ohio’s fastest-growing companies. Much of our growth is based on being consistently receptive to customer needs, while also acting quickly and decisively on satisfying those needs.

How have you maintained your competitive edge?

Ventura: We’ve remained competitive by providing our corporate customers with whatever services they require to be compliant with governmental health and safety regulations. For instance, we recently contracted with the Construction Employers Association, Ohio’s largest union construction industry association, to perform drug testing for 16,000 union members. Meanwhile, our expertise has effectively maintained the safety of workers rebuilding furnace equipment at a nearby glass manufacturing plant. Similarly, we’ve assisted General Electric in meeting federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) mandates within its lighting division facilities across the country.

How exactly do your work with clients?

Ventura: It really depends on the circumstances. For example, we may be asked to review a plant’s respirator program. Subsequently, we’ll get out onto the factory floor and discover that few workers are wearing this safety equipment. SCT will then develop a plan to ensure compliance with management safety and health programs.

Grueser: Advocacy is another area of our expertise. This often takes place when an OSHA compliance and health safety officer (COSHO) inspects a prospective client’s establishment for health and safety violations. In such instances, we work with clients to establish practices that bring them in compliance with OSHA mandates. We’ll then advocate, explaining to OSHA what is being done to correct any violations the COSHO has identified.

Every day is different. One day, I’m working with Joe on reviewing engineering plans for a factory’s safety standards. Tomorrow, I’ll assist in providing flu vaccines for workers at a local manufacturing facility. It makes for a great work environment.

Growth is obviously important to your company. Are you considering entry into new markets?

Grueser: In 2012 and beyond, we’ll be directing much of our work and resources toward arc-flash safety and tower safety. We’ve established a partnership with nationally recognized firm Operational Safety to reduce the potential for lethal electrical discharges, or arc flash, associated with industrial electrical panels and motors. Regarding tower safety, we’re focusing on developing meaningful training and compliance programs to meet the demand for trained and qualified workers to erect cellular and wind towers.

What are your future goals for SCT?

Grueser: We’re striving to add a greater green component our services. Toward this goal, we are helping more of our clients become LEED (Leadership in Environmental Engineering Design) certified. This certification is bestowed upon by the Green Building and Trade Council for structures that exemplify sustainable, eco-friendly operations. We believe that helping clients go green fits in nicely with our commitment to providing quality, effective services that promote health and safety standards.