Industry expert on learning to love health and safety

From 'starving college student' to director of safety at construction giant: how Shannon Caron found her passion

Industry expert on learning to love health and safety

Shannon Caron's relationship with health and safety was definitely not love at first sight.

Her first experience came when she was a "starving college student", taking a summer job as a flag person at Suncor in Fort McMurray. But though her father worked in the pipeline industry, Caron had no initial plans to get into the construction sector. “At first I didn’t love it because I didn’t understand it,” says Caron. But eventually she became "obsessed" and took it from there.

"As I progressed in my career in flagging traffic, the current safety person was leaving the company and I was asked to join the safety department as a health and safety administrator.”

The company that she was working for offered to pay for additional training to obtain the HSA designation from the Alberta Construction Safety Association. Her new-found knowledge of safety helped her gain respect in the field, while dealing with some serious accidents also fueled her passion for the profession.

“I was involved in some serious incidents and investigations – unfortunately fatal ones. It became very close to home to me that I wanted to help make a difference to prevent these kinds of things from happening again.”

Caron is now the Director of Safety, Environment and Transportation at Michels Canada. She meets with the company’s executive group to discuss HSE governance and liases with clients and various industry safety groups she participates in. Caron co-chairs the Canadian Energy Pipeline Association (CEPA) foundation safety committee, and is also on the Pipe Line Contractors Association of Canada (PLCAC) education and safety committees. She said: "“We have locations all across Canada so I will travel to deliver leadership training and conduct job site inspections.”

She has learned to embrace her new director role after spending so many years in the field. One of her favourite parts of health and safety is having the opportunity to make a difference and make the workplace a safer place for all the people who work hard each and every day, often away from their families.

"I’ve been there," she said. "It’s so difficult. I worked in the field as a welders helper and have family friends in the workplace in remote locations, working long shifts. Now that I’ve moved to a corporate role I have an absolute passion to try to make a difference, ensure people don’t get hurt when they go to work and see how I can help reduce barriers that allow for that to happen.”

Caron’s line of work can be very difficult:"In many of our projects we have a very transient workforce so trying to establish culture in a short time frame can be very challenging. Just when I feel we are really getting there and obtaining buy-in with new individuals coming to the company they leave and we have to start all over again.”

Because of this, she says that her company always makes ensure to conduct effective onboarding and leadership training. She added: "It can be hard to feel like you are always starting over.”