John FisherSafety is always the same – whether it refers to employee safety or product safety. It always comes down to effectively finding and eliminating hazards.

It’s a mindset that has guided the efforts of the Alamo Group’s John Fisher in his longtime role as the company’s vice president of technical affairs, and it’s one that has remained front of mind for him as he has engaged in a wide range of activities with AEM and various other organizations over the years.

“The only way a manufacturer can win at this game of product liability is by preventing an accident,” said Fisher. “Once an accident occurs, it comes down to how much you are going to pay.”

A Career Spent in the Ag Equipment industry

A significant portion of Fisher’s career has been spent dealing with equipment liability issues, and his role with Alamo Group is one where he is responsible for providing senior management with leadership and direction regarding the organization's safety culture, proactive safety training, status of product liability, employee safety injury investigations, and compliance with environmental laws and regulations. But what initially set him on a path to a career in the equipment manufacturing industry – and eventually allowed him to ascend to his status as a leader in the development and application of industry standards and encouragement of off-road equipment safety – was both a love of an agriculture and a keen interest in designing and building things.

“I always liked being outside,” said Fisher. “I grew up in Lubbock, Texas. High desert, windstorms, sand storms, not a lot of moisture, not a lot of trees.”

When it was time to attend college, Fisher said he recalls attending an interview with a representative from the College of Agriculture at Texas A&M University.

“I had an interest in chemistry as well, and I remember having to choose between chemistry courses and being outside,” he continued. “I told the representative I wanted to be outside, so I went into ag engineering because I really wasn’t sure whether I wanted to eventually go into engineering or agriculture. But after two years, I discovered I loved everything about the program.”

After securing both a bachelor’s degree and master’s degree in agricultural engineering from Texas A&M, Fisher took a job as a design engineer for a Texas-based mower company in 1977, where he worked for six years. Then, in 1983, Fisher was promoted to chief engineer of Alamo Group responsible for the company’s engineering and product development, including mechanical, hydraulic and electrical products.

Prior to assuming his current position as vice president of technical affairs for the Alamo Group, Fisher also worked as the company’s vice president of engineering and as president of Rhino International (a subsidiary of the Alamo Group).

Making a Difference

And while he has taken great satisfaction from his four-plus decades spent working with ag equipment, his current efforts to advance the causes of employee safety, product safety and product compliance are not without challenges.

“Really it comes down to overseeing that all of our companies (housed within the Alamo Group) make sure that for similar products there are similar warnings, safety messages and so on, so that one isn’t used against one another,” said Fisher. “On the employee safety side, the most difficult challenge is building safety cultures within the companies to ensure they really look out for one another.”

A 42-year member of The American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers (ASABE), Fisher has been long been involved in the ergonomics, safety and health technical community. In addition to serving on the ASABE Society Board of Trustees and the ASABE Foundation Board of Trustees. Fisher also maintains a membership with SAE International and the American Society of Safety Engineers, as well as contributes to standards development work at the ASABE, SAE and ISO levels.

The Alamo Group is a longtime member of AEM, and Fisher himself has been actively involved in association activities and related industry efforts for decades. And when he thinks back on all of his efforts and accomplishments in working with the Mower Council Safety Committee, the Technical and Safety Leadership council, and the Ag Safety Council, Fisher said he feels it’s all been time well-spent.

“AEM really offers a place in which manufacturers can get together, talk about common issues, and then from those common issues develop and improve standards,” he said. “And once you can get that done, you sort of set a minimum bar for all of the manufacturers. Even though we are competitors in the marketplace, once we get to these meetings we’re very much coworkers in trying to make the industry better and safer for all. Because that’s the only way we really win.”

Looking Ahead

Retirement from the Alamo Group is imminent for Fisher, and it could happen as soon as August of 2019. And while he may stay actively involved in various standards organizations for some time, he said he looks forward to seeing the next generation of industry professionals rise to the challenge and make their mark in the equipment manufacturing industry.

Fisher also offered some to the younger members of the industry, based on his years spent advocating for safety and compliance.

“Educate yourself and communicate with others, but most importantly, understand the hazards and respect safety,” he said.

“Being involved is so important,” continued Fisher. “It’s a very good way to meet fellow participants in the industry, and I think that’s extremely valuable. What you can learn, and contribute for both your company and the industry, is so worthwhile.”

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