Moving countries and changing careers in mid-life

Top Women in Safety award recipient Claudia Heathfield shares her journey

Team lead and senior health and safety advisor at Worksite Safety, Claudia Heathfield, talks about changing careers and relocating in her late 30s, while sharing advice about how to influence behaviour, and tips for the younger generation of safety leaders.

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Shane Mercer  05:55:32 

Hello, and welcome to another edition of COS TV. I'm your host Shane Mercer, senior journalist for Canadian occupational safety. On today's episode, I'm joined by one of the 2023 Top Women and safety award recipients, Claudia Heathfield team lead, and Senior Health and Safety Advisor at and worksite Safety Compliance Center. Welcome, Claudia. 

Claudia Heathfield  05:55:58 

Thank you so much Shane. Thanks for having me. Really happy 

Shane Mercer  05:56:00 

to have you here. I want to start off by asking you, what was it like moving from South Africa to Canada, and finding a new career footing in a new country? 

Claudia Heathfield  05:56:11 

Well, in South Africa, I worked in the construction industry, but not in safety. I worked in every other department, excluding safety. So I had no experience from South African safety standards at all. coming to Canada, obviously, it's a challenge. Not knowing anyone here not having a job. And having to learn the Canadian culture, as well as the way of doing business is, is is kind of a challenge. And initially, I took some administrative positions to help me learn how business is done here in Canada. And then I was hired on as a safety administrator at a construction company. And that's when I got introduced to safety. And that's where my journey started. 

Shane Mercer  05:57:02 

Wow, so fascinating and inspiring. So let me ask you, how do you influence and change behaviors to improve safety within an organization? 

Claudia Heathfield  05:57:12 

in my opinion, Shane, safety in organizations starts at the management level. And if management are genuinely safety, conscious, workers will pick up on it, and they will trust and respect management for it. So it also helps to know your audience and know who you're speaking to, and how they, how they understand information that you impart to them. But I can tell you that, if you trust if you show trust and respect to your workers and compassion, they are more likely to listen to you when you want to provide solutions or when you want to provide challenges for changing the way things are done. Using that trust and respect to workers, even just by saying good morning to everybody who you come into contact with can change the whole attitude about you. I feel that workers can be so innovative, when it comes to identifying and finding solutions for for hazards that are on site, we just need to give them the opportunity to provide their input and and challenge them to find a solution to a different way of doing things on site. 

Shane Mercer  05:58:29 

Yeah, trust so critical. What advice would you share with a younger generation just starting out in the health and safety field? 

Claudia Heathfield  05:58:39 

So I started out in safety in my late 30s. So to anybody who is starting out in theater, regardless of their age, I would say that, first of all, find what you enjoy. And if it's safety that you enjoy, I suggest that you can you learn as much as you can, from everybody, from workers from management, from mentors and coaches, from educators. Learn as much as you can, so that you can apply that in your workspace. Also, I ask a lot of questions on site. So it's a good it's a good way to get into safety with people on site as well. So asking the questions, you may not always get the answer that you expect, but you will learn from it. And then also to celebrate the small victories because sometimes it can be a hard job to do. And when you celebrate those small victories that makes it all worthwhile in the end. 

Shane Mercer  05:59:36 

Such valuable advice. Thank you for that. Claudia. What's next for you and your career in health and safety? 

Claudia Heathfield  05:59:45 

I think that I have not, I'm not done learning yet. So I think I've still got a lot to learn. And I'm excited to do that. I'm also excited to participate in some sector of safety related volunteer work. And then of course to be challenged in new industries in my in my current role, I'm being challenged I'm learning new industries and adding to my responsibilities so I'm excited to continue to continue to learn and that and to grow as a person. I also obviously need to do more professional development for my CRSP maintenance but I may excited to do that, and I'm looking forward to finding new mentors for myself and new coaches to help me along my journey. 

Shane Mercer  06:00:33 

Well, we're excited to watch you grow and we hope you stay connected with Canadian occupational safety as you sort of embark on your journey of continued growth and learning. Claudia Heathfield team lead and Senior Health and Safety Advisor at Worksite Safety Compliance Center. Thank you so much.  

Claudia Heathfield  06:00:53 

Thank you very much, Shane.  

Shane Mercer  06:00:55 

And I'm your host, Shane Mercer. Thanks for watching and stay up to date on the latest news and trends in safety by checking in on Canadian occupational safety at