My Story: Cathy White
All throughout college, I thought I would be an industrial engineer. After all, that was what I was majoring in. At a career fair event on campus, I waited in a long line to speak with an automotive company representative, and I was fully prepared to explain how I would be a great engineer. The rep looked at my resumé and asked, “Are you interested in ergonomics?” And so it began.
I started my career as a full-time ergonomist. I found a very personal connection to this topic. My mother suffered from carpal tunnel syndrome, and I assisted her after she had surgery on one of her wrists. The work-related causal factors were clear. I knew that what I was doing was truly important. Being the technical expert to promote the voice of the worker felt like a mission to me.
I then took time to explore what traditional industrial engineering would look like. I liked finding ways to help make the life of a worker better and enhancing productivity in the process. Engaging with workgroups in workshops and brainstorming sessions to solve their problems was something I enjoyed doing. Combining this problem-solving skill set with the greater environmental, health and safety world led me to a new job at another company and assignments in different manufacturing environments.
I continued to find personal connections to my work in the broader EHS world. My father is an electrician, and topics in subjects such as “test before touch” or lockout/tagout led to many conversations with him. I again found a deep meaning in what I was working on, with the belief that I am saving lives every day.
Along the way, I achieved my certifications in safety (CSP) and industrial hygiene (CIH). I now lead projects that can impact a broad population in breakthrough EHS performance. I tell people that EHS is part of my natural DNA. It is part of who I am, and I am very fortunate to be able to tell people that I truly love what I do for a living. I have the opportunity to positively change the short- and long-term health and safety of every employee and contractor who comes into our facilities on a day-to-day basis.
It may not be something that can be viewed on a scorecard today, but I know that what we are working on is preventive in eliminating what can happen today, tomorrow or many years from now. That is some awesome power to have, and I don’t take a day of my work for granted. It is a privilege to serve in this capacity, and I look forward to many more years in EHS.
Cathy White, CIH, CSP, CPE
Global Project Leader, EH&S Operations