U.S. Air Force Safety Professional Discusses Value of CET, Certification

Published on Thursday, March 21, 2019

Zachary Northcutt, CSP, CET didn’t always know he wanted to be a safety professional. While serving 10 years active duty in the United States Air Force (USAF), being given the role of enforcing safety standards was more of a “voluntold” situation than an outright desire to begin a path that would eventually lead him to become a Certified Safety Professional (CSP) and Certified Environmental, Safety, and Health Trainer (CET).

“Most of the time, no one wanted the additional safety duty,” said Northcutt. “However, while reading the regulations, performing audits, and training, I began to really get involved with the full-time safety professionals.”

It was in 2013 when Northcutt took on the role of a unit occupational safety manager and was given the opportunity to cross-train into a full-time safety professional that he began to understand the importance of what being a safety professional means to an at-risk workforce. Part of his job duties included ensuring that 29 military organizations were in compliance with OSHA rules and regulations. 

In 2015 he was promoted to Occupational Safety Instructor where he was the lead instructor for developing and teaching OSHA’s health and safety regulations, policies, and procedures. He was also responsible for the management of the squadron's Health and Safety Program for the commander. 

“[Being a safety professional] is great because I always get to learn something new,” said Northcutt. “I can take what I learned in one industry and use it another.…there is always something to do or observe."

Northcutt believes the value of the CET certification extends to all branches of the safety profession and that its benefits are so far-reaching that all safety professionals should obtain the CET. 

“Obtaining the CET has helped me see the importance of what safety professionals do,” said Northcutt. “I honestly believe the CET is a credential all safety professionals need to have.” 

The reason Northcutt believes this is due to the importance of communication and engagement between safety professionals and the employees they protect. A typical employee may not keep up-to-date on the latest safety news or regulations, and so it is his and all safety professionals’ duty to be able to properly communicate with fellow at-risk employees, and the CET prepares safety professionals for that task. “It is the safety professionals who are the subject matter experts and we must share our information with everyone,” said Northcutt. 

Zachary Northcutt is currently in the Texas Air National Guard and is the Environmental, Health, and Safety Manager at Johnson Controls. In 2017, he began his own company, Texas Safety Solutions, LLC, which provides health and safety guidance to all industries.

“Starting my own safety company was important to me because I see how businesses struggle to run effective programs,” said Northcutt. Texas Safety Solutions, LCC allows Northcutt to help and educate companies on proper safety practices. His main focus is leading indicators which will save resources and increase profits, but he also provides training on behavior-based safety to reinforce safe operating practices to all personnel. 

When asked what’s most rewarding about being a safety professional, Northcutt simply said, “making a difference.” It’s clear that Northcutt intends to make that difference by using his CET certification to educate as many people in safety as possible because, as he put it, “we are constantly educating and if we are not, we are not being very effective.”