From safety award winner to safety advisor

UBC graduate Nicole Boeder shares with me about being awarded for her work in occupational hygiene and what it’s like to be a safety advisor at the airport. 

Photo of Nicole Boeder, recipient of the Roberta Ellis Award, with Chris McLeod, left, and Roberta Ellis, right

From left: Chris McLeod, Nicole Boeder, Roberta Ellis.
Photo credit: © WorkSafeBC (Workers’ Compensation
Board of B.C.), used with permission

Recently I was “speaking of safety” with occupational hygienist Nicole Boeder. In 2017, she won the first-ever Roberta Ellis Award for Excellence in the Study and Practice of Occupational and Environmental Health for her work as a Master’s student at the University of B.C.’s School of Population and Public Health (SPPH).

The award is named after former WorkSafeBC Senior Vice-President of Human Resources and Corporate Services Roberta Ellis, who, during her time at WorkSafeBC (she retired in 2016), strongly supported the training of students in occupational health and safety research. (Learn more about the award in this SPPH news release.)

Nicole won the award in part for the work she did as a co-op student at Teck Resources as a member of their occupational hygiene team. During her placement, Nicole met with Teck employees to learn more about the hazards they were exposed to so the team could come up with possible safety solutions. (These conversations were part of a much larger study that included air sampling, questionnaires, and more.)

Says Nicole of the conversations: “It was a good way to educate workers on potential levels of exposure and individual controls.”

Helping contractors see the value of contributing to safety

Today, Nicole is a health and safety advisor with the Vancouver Airport Authority, which is overseeing a large expansion to Vancouver International Airport (YVR). This expansion requires the work of many contractors, all of whom have to take part in YVR’s Contractor Safety Management Program (CSMP). This program provides contractors with structure, processes, and expectations for health and safety while working for YVR.

In her role on the CSMP team, Nicole answers questions from building contractors going through the risk assessment process. Currently, she and her team are looking at new ways to consolidate and use the information in contractors’ completed risk assessments to be more proactive about safety.

“We know that people are doing the proper risk assessments to go and perform the work safely,” says Nicole. “What we want to do is capture that information and use it proactively in a way that’s beneficial not just to us but to other contractors at YVR.”

Nicole also wants contractors to see the value of their input into safety: “People will always have safety forms to fill out — it’s just a matter of doing business nowadays. But we want people to see the value in it, as well. It’s not just about rules and regulations; a lot of it is about relationships, education, and continuous improvement.”

Thank you for speaking with me, Nicole.

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