Anita Bhandari freely admits that her initial foray into the field of workplace health and safety was, ironically, a happy accident. But in the intervening years, Anita has dedicated her career to the promotion of workplace health and safety.
It all started with a First Aid certification – something she felt compelled to do for personal, rather than professional, reasons. “I was fascinated with this area of expertise right away,” enthuses Anita, whose list of credentials is now literally two pages long.
“While I have a number of diplomas and designations, the most important thing I would say to anyone interested in pursuing a career in heath and safety is that in addition to education, you also have to feel passionately about it, and you should try to find a mentor who can help guide your path.”
Anita speaks from experience. “When I was first starting out at an engineering consulting firm, I didn’t have a definitive direction I wanted to take. But a colleague took me under his wing. I shadowed him and learned so much about auditing, environmental compliance, and health and safety.”
Since then, Anita hasn’t looked back. She began to take Train-the-Trainer courses in order to conduct internal training, and with each new course she took, her horizons grew wider. She boosted her resume and experience by taking programs offered through institutions like Ryerson University, Thompson Rivers University, Selkirk College and the British Columbia Institute of Technology.
If it sounds like there’s a lot to know about workplace heath and safety, that’s because there is. It’s a complex field, explains Anita, and there is a lot riding on the execution of comprehensive plans to ensure the well-being of employees, and, in the case of the tourism and hospitality industry, guests.
After opening her own company, Safety Etc., so that she would be able to explore the industry’s diverse range of challenges, Anita decided to combine her private consulting with a full time job at Grouse Mountain Resorts, where she has been employed as the Health and Safety Manager for the last year and a half. In large part due to Anita’s tireless efforts, Grouse Mountain has been recognized by the Canadian Society of Safety Engineers, awarded with the honour of Best Training/Orientation Program for Young and New Workers 2008, and that’s just one of the many feathers in the Resort’s proverbial cap.
While Anita says she appreciates the accolades, her principal reward is keeping people safe. The position of Health and Safety Manager is a complex one, with ever-changing responsibilities.
“Creating safety seminars, training new staff as well as managers and supervisors, conducting accident investigations, reporting injuries, ensuring compliance with Regulations and Acts, and developing and implementing health and wellness programs all comprise my day-to-day tasks,” says Anita, who notes that health and safety is critical at every workplace.
“In tourism, we aren’t only managing the safety of our staff, but also our guests. We have to be on top of legal, moral and personal requirements. A health and safety manager is that crucial liaison who speaks the language of the field, and can translate all those requirements for the benefit of everyone,” explains Anita.
“I started out on this path for personal reasons, and really, even though it’s become my profession, it’s always stayed personal. As a mother, I don’t ever want to have to tell someone their loved one has been injured, or has died.”
And that, says Anita, is the strongest motivation anyone could ever need.