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A Day in the Life of an Environmental Safety Officer

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This is part of our series profiling Agency officers in various positions throughout the Agency. We talk with them about their daily challenges and rewards, as well as some exceptional moments. CIA.gov recently sat down with Mary, an Environmental Safety Officer, to learn more about her journey to the CIA and her experiences here.

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Growing up as the daughter of a defense field engineer, my family moved frequently around the US and Europe. I developed a keen sense of gratitude that I was born a US citizen. As a young parent, I watched the Twin Towers collapse on TV, and I realized that I needed to better serve my family and give back to my country by using my industrial hygiene skills in a more meaningful way; I applied to the CIA in October of 2001.

All these years after coming on board, I am still simultaneously proud and humbled when I walk along the seal in the CIA Headquarters lobby. The most rewarding aspect of my career is actively and directly supporting people who do dangerous work that benefits our homeland. Over the years, I have almost outgrown the surprise when I learn of new activities that require my expertise as an Environmental Safety Officer…almost.

While different rotations in various offices at the Agency have required me to emphasize different facets of my skill set, there are some universal things that happen regardless of geography or org chart. As I look at my calendar, I realize that today is rather typical.

Training: This morning, I gave safety awareness training to new CIA officers. Over my career, I’ve taught students who represent nearly every walk of life on a variety of topics, including confined space entry, OSHA hazard communication, and forklift driving, to name just a few.

Inspecting: On tap today is the monthly data center safety inspection, which assures the integrity of spaces where mission-critical information is stored. Our annual self-audit happens to wrap up this week; my team has spent the last month surveying all office, mechanical, and industrial spaces to confirm compliance with applicable OSHA and environmental regulations. Throughout my CIA career, I have conducted environmental safety surveys on five continents. Will I get to six or more? I hope so!

Networking: Two items on today’s schedule illustrate how an Environmental Safety Officer’s concerns overlap with many other efforts. First, I’ll be joining a monthly update with security staff, where my role is to engage with Agency security personnel to ensure that the protection of our nation’s secrets can be accomplished while also maintaining personnel safety. Later, I will be joining the site’s emergency management team to develop a security-related preparation exercise for our site. Other officers I network with include facilities, logistics, and medical staff.

Internal Policymaking: Finally on today’s schedule is a reminder to follow up on an internal policy update I proposed a couple weeks ago. Contrary to what you might expect from a safety officer, my proposal won’t be introducing new limitations on quality-of-life issues in the workplace—it will lift certain restrictions, thanks to facilities upgrades recently made on our site. It’s nice to be the good guy.

Injuries, Fires & Floods: My two-way radio and a pair of sneakers are always within reach so that I can lend my expertise at a moment’s notice. Fortunately, emergencies at my site are rare. I do everything possible to equip management and staff officers with the training, hazard-recognition skills, and other tools to help minimize risk in all operations.

My advice for someone interested in working at CIA is, first of all, put your head down and plow through that application form—completing it is no small feat! Don’t be intimidated; just be prepared to collaborate by bringing us your expertise, and by learning from ours.

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For more information on the Environmental Safety Officer position featured in this story, click here.

Interested in learning more about the various career opportunities at the CIA? Visit CIA.gov/Careers and try our Job Fit Tool to help you explore what positions at CIA are most suited to your education, background, experiences and interests.

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