Jerome Yoon has been with USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service for just over one year, serving as branch chief for the Office of Management’s (OM) Safety & Physical Security Branch (SPSB). In this role, Yoon supervises the Physical Security Team and the Safety Team, delivering technical expertise on safety-related issues to all employees.

Jerome Yoon

The Physical Security Team issues and manages LincPass badges that grant FSIS employees access to agency facilities and laptops. The team also completes security assessments of agency buildings, including doors, windows and security systems, and ensures they meet or exceed FSIS requirements. The Safety Team helps ensure employee health and safety by managing personal protective equipment (PPE) — face masks, face shields, cut-resistant gloves, hard hats and lab coats — for FSIS field employees. This team also provides their technical expertise to the Office of Field Operations (OFO) and follows up if an employee is injured or reports hazards on the job. Per Yoon, “Worker safety is paramount. FSIS employees must be able to focus on their mission without having to worry about their safety.”

Yoon joined the agency in January 2022, and quickly implemented biweekly one-on-one meetings with all members of his team. He believes it is his job to ensure his staff has everything they need to be successful in their roles, and these meetings are critical to his providing support wherever it is needed. “I am a big believer in servant leadership, where I work for my staff to ensure their needs are met. I ask, ‘How can I help you? What do you need to perform your job?’ It’s good for morale and provides them opportunities to grow,” said Yoon.

In early 2022, Yoon and his team worked with the Office of Employee Experience and Development (OEED) to create videos for OFO on properly wearing PPE. OEED provided the script (reviewed and approved by SPSB) and actors, and the Safety Team supervised during filming. The result is a collection of videos available to all OFO employees. “This project makes me feel really good because I know I am directly affecting people’s lives. We want people to be safe and go home to their families at the end of each shift,” said Yoon.

FSIS Core Values
Yoon is a firm believer in all four FSIS Core Values — Accountable, Collaborative, Empowered and Solutions-Oriented. “As a leader, one must be accountable for achieving goals,” said Yoon. Additionally, he always takes accountability for his team’s actions, as well as his own.

Yoon is collaborative by reaching out to others in the organization and building relationships. Through training, he feels empowered to do his job. Yoon also believes it’s his job as a manager to ensure members of his team apply themselves, and he works with them to identify together what training they need. Said Yoon, “Professional development for me and my staff is important, and FSIS provides many opportunities for training.”

Finally, he enjoys working with other program areas to develop solutions to address agency issues. Currently, the Safety Team is working with the Office of Planning, Analysis and Risk Management to develop an in-house safety database that can provide data analysis for safety key performance indicators (KPI). For example, if an employee experiences an issue with the peracetic acid used as an antimicrobial on the production line, he will complete a form. The information from the form will be deposited in a database. The data is then filtered and provided to Yoon’s team to help identify trends and provide corrective actions based on those trends. The safety team will start by watching for trends with hazards and then move on to tracking injuries.

Education and Background
Yoon earned a Bachelor of Science degree in occupational safety and health from Columbia Southern University in 2012 and a Master of Business Administration from Northcentral University in 2015. He went on to receive a graduate certificate in business intelligence from Villanova University in 2016 and a certificate in executive leadership and management from the University of Notre Dame in 2017.

Wishing to serve his country and earn money for college, Yoon served in the U.S. Marine Corps Reserves as a supply administration and operations specialist from 2000 to 2002. After the events of 9/11, Yoon wanted to go into intelligence; after all, he already spoke a foreign language (Korean). He served active duty with the U.S. Navy from 2002 to 2012, where he learned to read, write and speak Pashto over the course of a year.

Later, as a Pashto linguist, Yoon was deployed to Afghanistan four times. In 2010, when he could no longer deploy, he worked full time in the safety office, something he had done as a collateral duty during his first eight years with the Navy. As a safety officer, he gained experience presenting concepts to high level leadership, including the base commanding officer. This experience has served him well in later safety positions with the American Red Cross and FSIS.

After his time with the U.S. Navy, Yoon spent the next ten years with the American Red Cross, nine of which he served as a safety officer to the division director. In his last year with the nonprofit, Yoon was accepted into their executive development program and promoted to corporate finance director, where he learned about KPIs and analysis, and briefed the chief operating officer monthly.

In late 2021, Yoon decided to pursue a career in public service that would complement both his military service and safety background. A career transition specialist at Wounded Warrior Project helped Yoon improve his resume and identified the SPSB position with FSIS. He applied for the job because it seemed like the right opportunity, given his education and experience.

Of her new branch chief, Yoon’s supervisor, Yolanda Chambers, Director, Administrative Services Division, said, “Jerome has been with OM Administrative Services Division a little over a year. During his time with us, he has demonstrated excellent leadership and technical expertise in taking on new challenges and meeting the demands of the agency by leading his team in tackling employee safety issues and strategically streamlining processes for physical security. He has successfully guided and motivated the Safety and Physical Security Branch in completing several mission critical projects for the agency.”

Outside of Office Hours
Yoon and his wife Jenny are the proud parents of Ethan, 6, and Alyssa, 3. Food safety is important to his family, as his son has six food allergies that were identified when Ethan was a baby. When he’s not in the office helping FSIS achieve its mission, Yoon enjoys playing golf, cheering on the Baltimore Ravens and Orioles, and playing with his children.

(To sign up for a free subscription to Food Safety News,click here)