Discover CRSP Drew Douglas





What is the most misunderstood aspect of your job? 

I think that the cliché is that Safety professionals only do workplace inspections and accident investigations. I immediately think of a picture of me wearing a hardhat and high visibility vest holding a clipboard performing an inspection. I met up with an old colleague and told him that I was a Safety Practitioner now. He said something like, “So you just drive around and make sure everyone is safe?” It is a very misunderstood profession. Inspections and investigations are important aspects of the job but I would say that they make up less than 5% of my time.

What does a typical day look like for you?

Practicing safety is highly administrative. I spend an overwhelming amount of my time at my desk on the computer. I have great respect for my colleagues that say they spend half their time “on the shop floor”; if the Safety department is large enough this may be an option. In many cases though, it is not. There is a lot of data that needs to be logged and analysed plus the many reports required both internally and externally. Creating policies and procedures is administrative in nature, but many don’t realize it’s not just the creation of the document, it is the communication of it, the creation of a training program to roll it out, and the analysis of evidence to evaluate its effectiveness. All of those things are highly administrative and they are cornerstones of the successful implementation of a health and safety management system.

Why did you chose this field? 

This field chose me. On a day I stopped working for my previous employer, this position (as a trainee) was posted in my home community and I was the successful applicant. Coincidence? My father, a knowledge keeper in our community, told me then that I was fulfilling my traditional purpose. I never really understood that until very recently, this year in fact, when our organization asked all of the department heads to research their role in relation to our traditional roles and knowledge and create and deliver a short presentation highlighting our findings. In our traditional Anishnabe clan system, I am a member of the loon clan. There are many attributes of the loon clan that are suited to being a Safety Practitioner and I will highlight some of them. The loon is a generalist, with knowledge of the lakes, sky, and land just as the Safety Practitioner should be a generalist; not just about safety related information, but about the work/industry they are employed in. The loon is known for their distinct call. It is said that when the loon speaks, all of the other clans listen. Similarly, when a Safety Practitioner speaks, it is important that they are able to communicate their messaging and thus have engaged listeners. The loon is known for their deep dives. Members of the loon clan were always sought out to resolve disputes because of this ability to get to the root cause(s) of the situation. Safety Practitioners require this ability when performing investigations and inspections as well. Finally, the loon was a Chieftain clan that had responsibility for the internal affairs of the community. They ensured that everyone was healthy, happy and safe. No wonder I became a Safety Practitioner.

What is the most gratifying part of being a certified as a CRSP?

Giving myself the validation that I have the knowledge and skills required to perform as a Safety Practitioner. I still consider myself “green” to the safety world (I’m in my 7th year) and while my own organization may consider me a safety expert, I never really did until I was acknowledged (through certification). A colleague once related to me that this career is a life-long journey of learning and I understand the importance of that statement; however, I do feel that I will be able to address any situation that comes my way or at least know where the resources are to seek a solution to that situation.

Is there anything you’d like people to know about the field?

I think the most important aspect of the job is building relationships with the stakeholders at all levels within your organization. I’ll never forget the first hour of my first day when my mentor (also a CRSP) sat me down and explained this to me. I realize now that he was cultivating our relationship in doing so as well. As a technical expert, I am a champion for safety, but what really motivates me is inspiring and empowering everyone within my organization to “do” safety. In order for an organization to function at the highest level of safety, the Internal Responsibility System needs to be a well-oiled machine; Safety Practitioners are the ones carrying the oil cans. That is to say, safety works best when we invest time inspiring others to get involved.

Best part of your day? 

I am energized when I harvest the fruits of my labours. This comes in many forms. For instance, it may be as simple as an employee reporting a hazard, or someone thanking me for a training session I facilitated, or knowing that a new program or intervention I helped implement was successful upon its evaluation a year later. Also, witnessing a health and safety committee that I helped lead and build perform beyond expectations is very rewarding. We have several committees at our organization due to the size and complexity of our work and I join all of the meetings as a guest. Attending those meetings is the highlight of my month!