Good safety relationships help convey 'sense of urgency'

'When you surround yourself with people who are advocates for safety, it's incredible to see the movement onsite'

Good safety relationships help convey 'sense of urgency'

The role of a safety professional is as much about building relationships as it is about technical knowledge. Marissa DesRoches, safety manager at Kiewit Construction Services, which is headquartered in Toronto, says this is key to how she promotes safety at work, helping her to speak up and "act with a sense of urgency" when there’s a safer way to operate in the construction field.

DesRoches says that she is constantly networking within her team because they are all spread out on various construction projects throughout Canada. “There’s always an opportunity to share new ideas, campaigns, and ways to engage the frontline crews,” says DesRoches, who also considers herself to be an advocate for mental health – both inside and outside of work – to ensure that her crews have the resources they need and the support to speak up about their mental health.

DesRoches discovered her passion for safety early on in her career. After graduating from high school, DesRoches took on an administrative position with an organization in the construction industry – as a result, she was “drawn to the safety aspect in the day-to-day operations in the field.”

Read more: Revealed: Top Women in Safety 2022

Following this, she eventually transitioned into an HSE Specialist role and says that she was “eager” to take the education available to learn more about how she could evolve her understanding to keep people safe.

“I am continuously encouraged by the opportunities I’ve had to grow my profession in safety. I stayed in safety because my heart is entirely in it; I could not imagine being in any other career,” says DesRoches. “When you surround yourself with people who are advocates for safety, it’s incredible to see the movement onsite which is entirely focused on building safe work so we can send people home safe every day.”

One of the things that she enjoys the most is the freedom to diversify herself in an ever-changing industry. “It’s crucial to utilize the available resources in safety to educate ourselves, so we can make a difference in the field.” For example, DesRoches says that she has been part of two projects recently that were recordable free – “knowing that we finished these projects with everyone going home safe and healthy to their families is that encourages me".

DesRoches says that one of the biggest challenges in her career was working on a construction project with over 800 employees in the middle of a global pandemic. “It was a challenge to navigate workplace safety, covid mitigations, and build a once-in-a-lifetime project. It took a lot of conversations about mental health, focusing on our fundamentals, and continuing to integrate and engage people in the safety culture we had built.”

She says that support from senior leadership and the project team “made all the difference” as they were able to support each other throughout this time.