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Getting to Know Safety Matters Task Force Chair Jennifer Maclachlan

An Interview by Berrak Sarikaya

On average, 60,000 young workers between the ages of 15 and 17 are injured seriously enough to warrant a trip to the emergency room each year. In 2015, AIHA announced the Safety Matters initiative for young workers. We knew that for it to be successful, we needed to turn to our members to bring the initiative to their local communities. Jennifer Maclachlan, who was present at the unveiling of the program in 2015, helped us pilot it at area schools in Cape Cod, Mass.

Jennifer recently spoke at AIHce EXP in Seattle during a well-attended session on the Safety Matters program. Jennifer has an impressive background and list of accomplishments. She’s worked in the family business for more than 20 years with her father, Jack Driscoll, who’s credited with commercializing the first portable photoionization detector in 1973. In her role, Jennifer manages relationships with distributors and key clients as well as the web-based marketing, social, and digital media initiatives, of which she was an early adopter.  

She’s also very active in the American Chemical Society (ACS) as chair of the organization’s National Committee on Public Relations and Communications and in various other public relations communications roles. Jennifer is also the founder of the Cape Cod Science Café, which she started in 2011 with support from the Northeastern Section of ACS (NESACS) and an International Year of Chemistry (IYC2011) mini-grant. STEM Journey, of which she is a founding member and organizer, is an award-winning K–12 annual public outreach, day-long event with collaborative efforts from NESACS, the Cape & Islands Boy Scouts, Sandwich STEM Academy, and her company, PID Analyzers, LLC.

Phew. It’s no wonder we’ve been so excited to have her be a part of our grassroots efforts to bring the Safety Matters initiative to as many schools as possible. In our conversation with her, we gained a bit more insight into her passion for this program and learned about the future of the Safety Matters initiative.

AIHA: What are some of the challenges that employers face with younger employees?

Jennifer Maclachlan (JM): Challenges that employers face with younger employees are probably the same as we see as parents of teenagers: keeping them off their devices and social media. It’s become such a part of our culture, and I’m amazed that there is so much tolerance for it when teenagers (and even adults) are at work. This can be a safety issue causing distractedness for a variety of workplace scenarios. Additionally, getting them to wear personal protective equipment is challenging because depending on what it is, it might be construed as “lame,” “geeky,” or even cumbersome.

AIHA: Your session at AIHce was well attended. What were some of the common questions you received before and after your presentation?

JM: It’s not enough to hand volunteers a flash drive with the Safety Matters presentation on it. People need to be coached through the “getting started” process. People ask, how can they get started? How can they be a Safety Matters facilitator? Connecting with educators and getting into classrooms is challenging. 

As a first step, come up with your pitch: make it understandable and succinct. 

Next, I recommend starting with your own network. Do you know any middle school or high school teachers? If yes, pitch it to them regardless of the subject they teach. They can likely point you in the right direction. Going in cold? Pitch it to the school’s guidance counselors. 

AIHA: What’s next for the Safety Matters initiative? How can AIHA members be more helpful and involved? 

JM: I’m currently chairing a Safety Matters Task Force for the AIHA Government Relations Beta Group​ and will have more information to report on our progress in the fall. If any AIHA members are interested in joining my task force, they should contact me via email

I’m also developing a Safety Matters train-the-trainer program for the New England AIHA one-day conference on Nov. 1, 2017, in Norwood, Mass. To learn more about this and other programs offered at the conference, visit the Local Section’s website.


If possible, let your local AIHA chapter know that you are getting out there and conducting Safety Matters training so it alerts other members who might want to do the same thing. Most importantly, share your experiences with AIHA’s Safety Matters champion, AIHA Past President Steven Lacey, via email​ so that he can track the progress of this program.

Huge thanks to Jennifer for all of her hard work for the Safety Matters program, and for taking the time to chat with us! If you have any questions or want to stay in touch with Jennifer, you can find her on her blog or LinkedIn​


Berrak Sarikaya is a brand amplifier based out of Seattle, Wash. Follow her on Twitter​.​

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