It’s a new year, and we’re kicking it off with a new series: Faces of EHS. Every other week, we’ll bring you brief conversations with environment, health, and safety (EHS) professionals working in a wide range of positions and industries. Not only do we want to discover what drives EHS leaders to help their organizations excel, but we also want to highlight their accomplishments and the valuable insights they’ve gained during their tenure as EHS professionals.
To get things started, we reached out to Kahlilah Guyah, the CEO, Founder, and Principal Consultant at EHS Compliance Services, a small firm of five consultants that helps manufacturers and small businesses manage compliance and mitigate risk. Since starting out 8 years ago, Guyah and her team have worked with companies from a breadth of industries, including medical device manufacturers, technology and biotechnology companies, wineries, and automotive manufacturers, among others. Their overarching goal is to expeditiously bring their clients into compliance with applicable EHS regulations through implementing risk assessment tools and management systems, providing them with a platform for continual improvement.
How did you get your start in the EHS field?
Shortly after beginning graduate school, I realized that while I loved chemistry—the fact that everything we see is made up of things we cannot see like the interactions of atoms and molecules—I couldn’t imagine spending my life in a laboratory. I started interviewing through the Penn State Career Center and was offered a job with Johnson & Johnson as an environmental engineer, where my responsibilities included managing environmental compliance. I enjoyed being able to bridge the gap between my love of science and my desire to learn from and interact with people.
What is the biggest EHS compliance challenge at your organization, and how have you managed it?
Because I own and operate an EHS consulting company, the biggest challenge for us is effectively managing projects and exceeding client expectations for each project. To overcome this challenge, we’ve implemented a few project management tools to determine timelines and responsibilities for contracted deliverables, along with ensuring that we have stakeholder engagement as a key component of each project. One of the most effective ways we found to manage this is regularly scheduling communication with clients, which goes a long way to ensuring that we are on the same page and delivering on expectations. This includes, but is not limited to, on-site visits, conference calls, and digital dashboards that show project progress.
What do you like the most about your career in EHS?
I enjoy learning about the products and technologies my clients are creating. This is particularly exciting because much of my work doesn’t change but must be adapted to fit the culture of each organization and to address the EHS areas that specifically apply. I find a lot of fulfillment in these aspects of the work I do, along with meeting and working with people across organizations in varying industry sectors.
What is the most difficult or frustrating part of your job?
Helping organizations identify the “why” in their journey to EHS excellence is one of the most difficult portions of the work I do. Many organizations are afraid of fines and other regulatory penalties. But the organizations that excel in EHS performance and management system implementation are doing so because they’ve identified core values that align with their desire to keep workers healthy and safe and minimally impact the environment around them. Working with organizations to find that is one of the most difficult yet rewarding parts of what I do.
What do you see as a positive emerging trend affecting the future of the EHS profession?
I appreciate that the definition of sustainability is expanding and now becoming inclusive of not just environmental footprint but also the health and safety of the people with whom an organization works—whether employees, contractors, or visitors. Investors and industry alike are beginning to understand that sustainable organizations are those that eliminate and mitigate risks, including those that result in injuries and illnesses to their workers.
What advice do you have for people just entering the profession?
There’s a lot to be said about technical knowledge; that is the foundation of our profession, and we must continue to strive to be technically proficient in the areas we support. In addition, I think EHS is so much more about the softer skills in many cases: influence, collaboration, integration. Any professional excelling in both the technical and soft skills will have the opportunity to positively impact the organization for which they work. Here are some of my biggest pieces of advice:
- Become a lifelong learner through whatever means work best for your personality and budget, including formal degree programs, industry-accepted certifications, books, conferences, and other professional development opportunities.
- Understand and leverage your core competencies.
- Join and participate in professional organizations.
- Network with other professionals.
|Kahlilah L. Guyah is the CEO, Founder and Principal Consultant at EHS Compliance Services Inc. a consulting firm that focuses on helping manufacturers manage compliance and mitigate risk. She is a Certified Hazardous Materials Manager (CHMM) and Certified Safety Professional (CSP) with nearly 20 years of comprehensive experience delivering compliance solutions and implementing management systems. Guyah is passionate about management system implementation and helping companies create sustainable systems for effective compliance and risk management. Her expertise includes, but is not limited to: ISO 14001 & ISO 45001 Management System Implementation, EHS Compliance Auditing; Risk Assessments, Regulatory Analyses and EHS Program Development. Guyah is a strong communicator and has been a presenter for the 2019 BLR Cal/OSHA Summit, the American Society of Safety Professionals (ASSP) and a guest lecturer for Presidio Graduate School.|
Would you like to be profiled in a future Faces of EHS and share your experiences, challenges, etc.? Or, do you know anyone else in EHS you think has an interesting story to tell? Write us at firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com and include your name and contact information; be sure to put “Faces of EHS” in the subject line.