“Why I Got Into Safety”

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May 29, 2017
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July 3, 2017

“Why I Got Into Safety”

Safety is more than just a job. For those in the know, it’s a vocation and a calling, as well. We’re fortunate at Boreal Services Group to work with and be surrounded by some of the most dedicated safety professionals in the industry, and for this article, we wanted to put your stories front and center.

People get into this industry for a variety of reasons, ranging from personal experiences in childhood to seeing a need that wasn’t yet met. As you read these stories, we encourage you to remember the reason you got into safety, and to take a moment to recognize the value of your continued commitment. It is because of people like you that our provincial safety record continues to improve year over year. It’s because of you that workers get to go home safely to their families every night.

If you’re inspired to share, we’d love to add your story to this page, too. Email us with your photo and a short answer to the question, “Why did you get into safety?” 

Amanda Sowa, Health & Safety Administrator, Lafarge Canada

The field of health and safety became of interest to me when I was in high school. My dad was badly injured at work just a few months before my graduation. At the time, I was unsure of which career path I wanted to take. But this unfortunate circumstance made it quite clear to me that safety was meant to be my calling. I completed the OHS program at NAIT and now have been working in the construction industry for over a year. Being able to have an impact, even a small one, on getting someone home safe to their family at the end of the day is the reason I love what I do. My personal experience with workplace injuries has even further increased my passion for safety.

John Gillespie, OH & S Instructor, NAIT

On March 6th, 1976, I walked into Dow Chemical in Sarnia for the first time. After we signed all the paperwork, the HR person took us for a driving tour of the division where we would be working. You could smell the different chemicals, and they always told us that was the smell of money.

Part of the tour included a drive by a 40-ft tank that he said had blown up last week, with a worker inside. Now, back then, we didn’t insist on GFI protection on electrical components. A spark was created and ignited the vapours that were so violent that the lid of the tank was sheared off and landed on a pipe rack 75 ft away. We were told that the man walked out but that his clothes were blown away and he was burnt all over. The man sat down waiting for the ambulance and asked for a cigarette, which they gave to him because they knew he was not going to make it to the burn unit in London. He never made it to the hospital alive.

I realized that day that I was in a very dangerous industry. This was 2 years before Ontario’s first Occupational Health & Safety Act came into effect, 12 years before WHMIS. Not long after I joined the Unit’s safety committee and 2 years later I became a safety representative for the Union.

Joanne Loyola, Health & Safety Coordinator, Distinct Infrastructure Group

I’ve been working for over 5 years as an Occupational Health and Safety Practitioner back in the Philippines. When I came to Canada, I decided that the best choice for me to make the world a better place is to become a Health and Safety Officer.

Over the years of my service, making sure that my co-workers are going home to their families safely every day, helping the company achieve zero accident through developing effective health and safety programs, communicating a safety culture to all employees, training the workers to become more safe at work, and making safety part of their daily life is a fulfillment and a highly rewarding career like no other. For me, SAFETY is about:

S – aving lives,
A – chieving a safe, healthy, and
F – riendly
E – nvironment
T – hrough the
Y – ears

 Tom Munro, President, Bulldog Safety Management Ltd.

In high school, I had a friend permanently disabled in a workplace injury, and the impact of the injury just wasn’t on him. It significantly changed his life and the lives the life of those that were working with him that day, and to a lesser extent, those of us that weren’t there but had to deal with the aftermath. After the injury, there was a lot of procedures and training, and it made me aware of safety from an early age. That incident has stuck with me to this day.

Once I started working, I got involved in a safety committee and became passionate about safety, and started to do small projects for our safety department, and take on some training responsibilities. I saw the value that safety added to the business and met some great mentors. Getting to understand the career of “safety,” I saw the opportunity to develop a career that I believed in, that could make a difference, and that I could make a life from.




Justine Leiter,  Program Coordinator, Boreal Services Group

A few years ago, when I was trying to decide what I wanted to do with my life, I knew I wanted to do something that involved people. Whether it was HR or social work or anything of that sort, I knew I loved helping and being around others.

Growing up in Alberta and having two brothers in the trades, I also had a fascination with working within the industry  (construction, oil and gas, mining, etc.). At the time, taking a trade wasn’t totally up by alley, so I started perusing the NAIT course website and came across the OHS diploma program. I started doing more research and talking to people currently working in the industry, and I knew it would be a good fit for me. The first time I applied to NAIT, I didn’t get in and went to the U of A for a year instead. About two months in, I knew it wasn’t for me, but I toughed out the year and applied to NAIT again. Thankfully, second time’s a charm, and as a (relatively) new grad, I have no regrets about my choice. I am exposed to so many different industries, I get to help solve unique problems, and best of all, I get to know a lot of interesting people from a ton of different backgrounds.

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