Chemical Safety Consultant

Ruth Hathaway

Ruth Hathaway is a partner in Hathaway Consulting, LLC. She started her career as an analytical chemist, conducting analyses of environmental samples. She advanced to evaluating test methods and monitoring company compliance with certification requirements, and eventually opened her own company.

What you need to succeed in this field

  • Continuing desire to learn new regulations
  • Diplomacy, for educating both potential clients and the public
  • Strong analytical skills
  • Broad knowledge of chemistry
  • Ability to maintain calm in a crisis

As a partner in her own environmental consulting firm, Ruth oversees projects involving wastewater compliance. Her company is involved in cleaning up industrial sites, as well as quality assurance testing of pilot projects for government agencies. Ruth solicits new clients, determines their needs, then assigns the right match of personalities and scientific expertise to complete the project.

Career Path

After a brief time as a chemistry teacher, Ruth realized she did not enjoy teaching. She next obtained a position as head chemist, responsible for quantitative and qualitative analysis, sample analysis, and product safety. She handled all U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) paperwork, as well as maintenance and generation of manufacturer's safety data sheets (MSDSs). Ruth spent a year on her own, as a consultant, during which she volunteered on an emergency planning committee, helping her community prepare for natural disasters. Through contacts there, she obtained a position as a lab director, responsible for PCB analyses and training employees in proper PCB handling. Ruth was jointly responsible for corporate environmental procedures and policy enforcement.

After a few years, Ruth moved to another company as quality assurance director. Her responsibilities increased to include PCBs, pesticides, herbicides, explosives, phthalates, and amino acid analyses. She evaluated test methods, and made sure the company maintained their state and federal certifications. She was responsible for the safety of all employees, provided training in hazardous communications requirements, and reviewed MSDSs. She also periodically conducted and evaluated environmental audits and OSHA safety inspections.

As her responsibilities grew, so did her network and areas of expertise. Ruth decided to try consulting again, and was planning to resign when she was terminated. The very next morning, she received a call from a company needing help preparing for an EPA audit the next day, who wanted her immediately. That lead to an ongoing relationship, and referrals quickly filled her consulting pipeline. As the business grew, Ruth hired a secretary as well as other chemists who wanted part-time work.

In 2002, Ruth sold part of the company to the employees, and went to work full-time as an area manager with one of her client companies, supervising their auditors. After a few years, she was promoted to district manager, and a few years after that she left the company, and went back to consulting full-time.

"I used my background in environmental regulatory compliance and strong analytical skills to start my own company. This allowed me to work to improve the environment around us, and really see the impact of my work."