ECU alumnus Steven Guillory Jr. earns world safety award

Steven Guillory Jr. looked everywhere for a graduate level online occupational safety program he felt would help his career. He found that program at East Carolina University, obtaining his master’s degree in 2006.

Little did he know at the time his degree would set him on a path toward being named the World Safety Organization’s Safety Person of the Year for 2020.

Steven Guillory Jr., safety program manager for the city of Houston, believes his ECU degree set him on a path toward a successful career, and ultimately, recognition as the World Safety Organization Safety Person of the Year. (Contributed photo)

“I had no clue I was nominated for this award, so the news came as a complete shock,” said Guillory, who works as the safety program manager for the city of Houston, Texas. “The understatement of the year, 2020 has posed countless challenges both personally and professionally. Thanks to God and my family, friends, colleagues and organizations like the World Safety Organization, I was given the opportunity, support and resources necessary to improve and exceed my expectations as a safety professional.”

The award recognizes a person who has given above-average support and dedication to the protection of people, property, resources and the environment. In Houston, Guillory oversees the implementation and operation of safety programs, including chemical hazard compliance, for the city’s 22,000 employees.

Founded in 1975, the World Safety Organization encourages the exchange of information and experiences as a means to promote safety and offers a variety of accredited professional safety certifications.

Wanting to further his career in 2003, Guillory found ECU’s occupational safety program fit his needs.

“Colleges and universities that offered degrees in occupational safety were rare. Finding one with an online option in 2003 was nearly impossible,” he said. “I believe there were two other options at the time, but having an opportunity to speak with Dr. (Michael) Behm and Dr. (David) Batts about not only the program but also my goals were priceless. The other universities on my list did not allow for such communication, and therefore were placed at the bottom of my list. Choosing East Carolina University was one of the best decisions of my life, even though in hindsight they chose me.”

After obtaining his master’s degree from ECU, Guillory became a safety representative with the Houston Airport System and was promoted in 2011 to safety supervisor for Houston Public Works before becoming safety division manager in 2015, and eventually, safety program manager.

“My Master of Science degree in occupational safety opened doors to me in the safety profession that would have otherwise been closed to me,” Guillory said. “In 2006 when I graduated, academic degrees in occupational safety were rare, so if you were fortunate to have one, it put you at the front of the line for companies hiring qualified safety professionals. This was the case for me. Without a graduate degree in occupational safety from East Carolina University, I know for a fact I would not have been considered for my first safety job soon after graduation — and I have been with the same organization since.”

Guillory helped rebrand Houston’s safety program called Zero is Possible, stressing zero safety incidents, zero injuries and zero compromises. He had to adjust to the COVID-19 pandemic as constantly changing regulations meant changes to safety protocols for the workplace, which also included keeping employees safe as they worked from home.

“I believe safety is one of those things we as human beings take for granted,” Guillory said. “When we do something repetitively, it is human nature to become complacent. That is why it is important to continually promote safety, to remind others of its importance and to be mindful of it.

“I have so many rules when it comes to safety. It depends heavily on the audience, circumstances and so forth. That said, I believe one rule that is all inclusive is if you see something unsafe, say something. At the end of the day, everyone is ultimately responsible for his or her safety and well-being.”

Guillory, originally from Baldwin, Louisiana, has been married for 22 years and has two children, ages 19 and 25. His father still lives in Louisiana. Guillory thanked his family for their support, as well as all of his co-workers in Houston, safety community peers and those at ECU who helped put him on a path to career success.

“It is humbling to be placed in such distinguished ranks as those of past honorees and to know that my efforts in the safety profession are being recognized and appreciated by my peers,” he said. “Receiving this award is one of the most significant events in my professional career. I have received local, regional and national recognitions as a safety professional. That said, I have never been recognized on a global scale. Being recognized by my peers both nationally and internationally is a big deal and a first for me.”

— Ken Buday