My Safety Moment – Tehzin Chadwick

Chadwick increased diversity of a company's field safety team by 30 per cent

My Safety Moment – Tehzin Chadwick

Born in Tanzania, Chadwick moved to Canada when she was nine years old and has worked for Imperial Oil, GlaxoSmithKline, City of Toronto and Toronto Hydro. Currently, she is the director, EHS, international foodservice – Americas (Canada, Caribbean and Latin America) for Sysco Corporation in Toronto. She is a Canadian Registered  Safety Professional, Certified Industrial Hygienist and Registered Occupational Hygienist. In her spare time she enjoys  dancing, specifically juxtaposing various dance forms — anything from traditional Bollywood to hip hop to salsa.

Q. How did you get into health and safety?

A. Being born in a developing country, I experienced the real need for physicians, so I aspired to work in the medical field. In 2004, while working at a hospital, I heard from a safety professional who inspired me when she said she changed professions from nursing to safety in order to be on the prevention side, rather than on the reactive side. She said good safety programs can keep people from ending up in the hospital and this inspired me to start my journey in the safety profession.

Q. What takes up most of your time at work?

A. I spend a lot of time influencing stakeholders from all levels of the organization. As safety is still a relatively young profession, many individuals do not understand what safety professionals do and think safety is just fluffy and cannot bring true value to an organization. In my experience, this is felt because they have never been educated on what safety truly is from an operational perspective or the financial rewards that can come from a good safety management system. Knowledge is power, so once they understand safety principles and see the results, they become our loudest supporters.

Q. How do you promote safety outside of work?

A. I love to travel with my husband and experience different cultures. I promote safety by just being inquisitive and always having my “safety hat” on. We recently  went to St. Lucia and visited the active volcano. As we entered  the area, I asked the tour guide what the parts per million were  for hydrogen sulphide, which raised some eyebrows. What can I say, it’s an occupational hazard!

Q. What motivates you at work every day?

A. This may sound like a cliché, but I am motived to be a good safety professional because of my parents. They immigrated to Canada and found themselves performing various — mainly physical — jobs. Some had safe work environments, some did not. Therefore, every day that I go to work and build programs and processes, I think about all those employees who are working hard at the front lines of our organization and contemplate, “If my parents were in those jobs, what safety precautions would I want in place to ensure they were never injured?”

Q. What is the most challenging thing about being a safety professional?

A. Influencing change to enhance a workplace’s overall culture is the most challenging part for me. We work in such a fast-paced world where leaders often want to see immediate results, but with safety, it takes time to see results because we require behavioural changes that do not happen overnight. This makes it tough to get quick wins and requires patience and perseverance.

This Q&A originally appeared in the February/March 2019 issue of COS.