Workplace accident motivates UFred OHS student

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Shawn Landry uses personal experience to achieve education, career goals

Shawn Landry says he got into power line work by sheer happenstance in the early 2000s after moving to Fort McMurray, Alta., from British Columbia to find employment. He bounced around between power line work and the telecom industry until Shawn suffered an accident on the job while working as a lineman.

“I really wanted to take safety and what happened to me to heart,” he said, adding that he wanted to take that motivation and drive himself forward.

Shawn decided he wanted to pursue a career in Occupational Health and Safety to see his goals to fruition. He started research on which universities offered programs that would be more recognized and appreciated. The University of Fredericton’s Certificate in Health and Environmental Safety Processes (CHSEP) program kept popping up in his results, so he enrolled.

“The CHSEP program I found was the perfect way to get back into academics and was very non-threatening, especially for somebody who’s worked front line for so long. It was, ‘I can do this,’ and ‘I have the tools to do it,’” he said. “It’s given me a whole different outlook and a whole different attitude and approach to health and safety and what needs to be done out in the field.”

Shawn says it’s one thing to be an OHS officer and bark out commands, but that’s missing the big picture. He wants to make a change to how health and safety are communicated to the front line workers and talk to supervisors about finding common ground.

“Almost like a peacekeeper in a lot of ways. You want the supervisors to understand that they have a role with responsibility because some guys get forced into supervisory roles who don’t understand that they can be held accountable,” Shawn said.

While power and authority have a large role to play in ensuring supervisors are aware of what the legalities are, often they don’t have the knowledge or the resources to back up what the expectations are. Shawn wants to bridge that authority gap between management and the front line workers and let them know that he can relate.

“This is what I’m going for in health and safety: it’s ok to say no; it’s ok to have the right to refuse work; it’s ok the say these things. But you need to be professional and educated as to what you’re saying no to,” he said, then cautioning, “I was one of you, and I can’t run with my kids anymore.”

Shawn notes that a combination of his UFred education and his background working on the front line adds credibility to be able to speak to both management and the front line.

“We speak up the line and down the line, and that credibility is what gives us the ability to be taken seriously. Being able to speak the same language as these guys and keeping them safe, and keeping them within the letter of the law [has been well received by both groups].”

He added that sharing the information with other people and doing coursework on his schedule worked out perfectly for him. As a result of his CHSEP education, Shawn is an OHS consultant in Smithers, B.C. He has since moved on to the Diploma in Safety, Health and Environmental Management (SHEM) program, which he feels is more all-inclusive.

Shawn says he never thought he would get a diploma, so the program has been empowering to him. It’s also been motivating, as so much of what he was learning he was in complete agreement with and wanting to put into action.

“I found myself wanting to get to my computer and wanting to learn more,” he said.

Shawn has an active role on the Animal Planet TV show Wild Bear Rescue, a documentary-style series based on his family’s Northern Lights Wildlife Shelter in Smithers, B.C., where he is also the shelter’s OHS consultant.

“I put our program together actually using the CHSEP program. That was my Guided Practicum, putting that together. When issues do come up that are questionable, I put my two cents in.”

Shawn believes health and safety departments shouldn’t exist, that it should be everyone’s responsibility to know how to operate safely in a work environment.

“Guys should want to go to work with the desire to work safely and take care of themselves. You know, the same thing with these animals. We [the shelter] don’t want to exist, but because we are in the situation that we’re in, where people are not being held accountable, or they’re not educating themselves, or they think that it’s somebody else’s problem, we’re the ones left at the end of the day picking up the pieces.”

He believes each person should be held accountable for their own actions or inactions.

“I think that going forward, the smarter we are and the more accountable we are, the more resourceful we are,” he said. “Like I say, it’s very easy to have a symbiotic relationship with the animals as long as we educate ourselves.”

Shawn hopes that in the future he can work in an OHS position that helps organizations minimize their impact on the environment while continuing his work at the wildlife shelter.