As I work through my 29th year as a safety and health professional, I’m motivated to focus on why I’m in this profession. I reflect on how the examples my parents set for me as servant leaders and my experiences in sports shaped the way I approach challenges and work in teams or as an individual contributor. I don’t believe I chose this profession – I believe this profession chose me.
I didn’t grow up intending to be a safety and health professional. I wanted to be a federal law enforcement officer until I completed my first semester of graduate school. I have a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from West Virginia State University and a master’s in safety management from Marshall University.
While I was completing my final semester of college, I started applying to federal law enforcement organizations. I knew that some of the organizations would require me to complete a civil service exam, so I completed the local professional firefighter civil service exam. Even though I accepted an offer to become a professional firefighter in 2001, I remained focused on working my way into federal law enforcement. When I reviewed graduate degree options, the one degree that closely matched what I had been doing for the past two years was safety and health management.
I completed the program in the spring of 2004, and that set me on my glorious career of serving people around the world as a safety and health professional. Before I had teams of EHS professionals for whom I served as a servant leader, I developed students’ minds that yearned to be safety and health professionals as a college instructor at four different colleges and a university.
I started my full-time industrial safety and health profession as a safety engineer in Suffolk, VA, for a medium-sized specialty chemical manufacturer in 1995. Since then, I have worked in different roles as a safety and health safety manager, EHS manager, safety director, group/global assurance director, and vice president in different organizations in chemical manufacturing, petroleum extraction, petroleum processing, and engineering and construction contracting.
In all of the roles, locations and work families I have served, one element of how I deliver has remained true: I seek to understand the safety and health needs of the work families I serve, and then seek to be understood on how I can and will make things better in safety and health.
I’ve been through several company acquisitions, reorganizations and rightsizing over the years, with every end result being a positive experience through my exposure to different cultures of the world, my learning of new safety and health strategies, my observation of leadership styles, and my humble opportunity to serve others.
Britt Howard, MS, CSP, CRSP
Group Director, Assurance Major Projects & Integrated Solutions