CHSEP grad sees influx of women in OHS field

Annie O’Hara says women offer different perspective on safety issues

Annie O’Hara has been a National Construction Safety Officer (NSCO) for six years and working in the Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) industry for nine years, fresh out of high school.

As Annie’s interests and experiences grew in the health and safety profession, so did her hunger for knowledge. After looking at multiple education options, she says the University of Fredericton (UFred) came out on top with the best reviews and as the most recognized in the field. Also, the online format made it possible for her to study while still splitting time between the office, job sites and commuting.

While earning her Certificate in Health, Safety, and Environmental Processes, Annie says the highlight of her experience was the course on Accident Causation and Investigations.

“It’s my favourite part of my career in general. The unit gave me a few more tools and techniques to put in a bag for future use,” Annie explained.

She also found the group discussion enlightening.

“There are so many backgrounds, industries and experiences [in my peer group] to pull from and discuss. And, anytime I had a question, the instructors were quick to get back to me and thoroughly explain their answer,” she added. 

Annie’s current employer is a group of 12 construction companies that range from civil, commercial, residential, and industrial. With such a large group to cover, she says one of the most important things she’s learned and can apply immediately is organizational management.

“Understanding how organizations work and how employees’ basic core needs come in to play just about every day helps me to assess and navigate a situation towards a healthy outcome,” she said.

Annie is proud to be one of the few women in the OHS profession for the construction industry. She says women have a different perspective to offer in safety situations. Though she believes women are under-represented, she sees the numbers growing.

“It is still a male-dominated industry. However, from my start in 2010 to today, I have seen an influx of women in the OHS field. There is a stigma that construction is a ‘man’s industry,’ and I feel that holds a lot of women back,” she said.

Still, as Annie was growing up, she was taught that she would only be able to do what she allows herself to do.

“There was some resistance at first, but I put my head to all challenges and had some great people to help me overcome them and show that I belong in the role I am in,” she said, adding that her post-secondary education from UFred has made her resume more appealing to future potential employers.

Regardless of whether a man or woman approaches Annie to inquire about a career in OHS, she gives them all the information, time, and professional support they may need on their journey.

In the future, Annie will work toward her Certified Registered Safety Professional (CRSP) designation.

In addition to her work as an NSCO, she runs a hobby farm, Thistle Dew Acres, with her partner, Malcolm. Together, they have two cats, three dogs, two horses, and a countless number of sheep. Those numbers will only grow as they plan to add more livestock in the future.

When not keeping employees safe or running the farm, Annie can be found riding the trails with her horse or running with the dogs.

To learn more about UFred’s OHS programs, click here.