- Day in the Life
Day in the Life: Shannon – Owner, Benchmark Safety
Shannon’s career in oil and gas is more accidental than planned.
A graduate of the University of Calgary biological anthropology program almost 20 years ago, she found jobs were scarce in her field.
“After school, I wasn’t able to get into a master’s program right away and I wasn’t sure what my other options were,” Shannon says.
She thought she would fill in her gap year by working for her dad’s company, Benchmark Safety Inc. Benchmark Safety specializes in fit-for-purpose safety management consulting and provides support for companies in the oil and gas, construction, recreational and manufacturing sectors in Canada, the USA and internationally. Ultimately, Benchmark Safety’s purpose is to help clients find timely and effective solutions to their safety management system concerns.
She’d grown up hearing her father, a professional engineer and Canadian Registered Safety Professional, talk about both the oil and gas industry and the safety profession, but did not think she would follow in his footsteps.
“Well, it’s been over 19 years since I started with Benchmark, and now I own the company,” she says with a laugh. “My dad saw my potential and encouraged me from the beginning. After working together and learning from him, I realized how much I love this. Like my dad, I went on to become a Canadian Registered Safety Professional. He taught me how important it is to have a formalized safety management system, but that it isn’t always easy for internal staff to make those changes alone. As a consultant, I enjoy helping companies reach their safety goals and assisting them in the development, implementation and monitoring of their programs.”
A typical day
Depending on the time of year, Shannon’s days are spent with a variety of clients. She spends a large portion of her time auditing her clients’ OHS programs against provincial standards so they can achieve a Certificate of Recognition (COR).
COR programs are built around identifying and eliminating or minimizing risks to the health and safety of workers, property and communities. In recent years, the scope of COR programs has widened.
“There is definitely an increase in the attention paid to the importance of auditing in general,” Shannon says. “Part of what I do is thoroughly review and consider every aspect of their business from the executive suite to field operations to administration support.”
“My job is to evaluate whether a company has implemented their safety management system, so I could be talking to a mechanic in Fort McMurray, an executive in Calgary, a roughneck at a drilling rig in Northeastern British Columbia or an operator at a manufacturing facility in Edmonton,” Shannon says.
Her days are often long, stretching at times to 16 hours when in the field. With the current pandemic, the field portion of the audits has decreased in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba, but there is still a requirement to interview workers in British Columbia. “Now we’re just doing it via Microsoft teams or phone calls,” Shannon says.
My job is to evaluate whether a company has implemented their safety management system, so I could be talking to a mechanic in Fort McMurray, an executive in Calgary, a roughneck at a drilling rig in Northeastern British Columbia or an operator at a manufacturing facility in Edmonton.Shannon, Bachelor’s degree Biological Anthropology, Canadian Registered Safety Professional
A balance of knowledge and skill
The skill she uses most: interpersonal.
“As a safety professional, you need to know how to talk to people. But you also need a combination of other skills such as time management, conflict resolution, adaptability and other interpersonal skills.
“That said,” she adds, “you also need an incredible amount of knowledge both about safety management systems and people in general. I studied human behaviour in university and know personalities are unique, and so are behaviours. I’m there to help companies understand how that all fits together.”
For Shannon, the breadth and depth of safety in the oil and gas industry means she is never bored and is always challenged.
“I love talking to people and finding what’s working and what’s not working. My job is to find solutions. There can be hundreds of ways of doing something, but we want to find the right solution,” she says. “It’s really fun — like putting together a puzzle when you don’t have the image on the box.”
Bringing a sense of fun and humour plays a serious role in her ability to work with others.
As a safety professional, you need to know how to talk to people. But you also need a combination of other skills such as time management, conflict resolution, adaptability and other interpersonal skills.Shannon, Bachelor’s degree Biological Anthropology, Canadian Registered Safety Professional
Learning and growing together
When Shannon joined the company, she knew little more about health and safety than what her father had shared around the kitchen table. Today her knowledge is vast, but still growing.
“I don’t consider myself an expert. I’m still learning,” she says. “That’s why I think it’s critical to build a network in safety. I’m lucky to have found safety professionals across Canada who I’ve learned from through the Board of Canadian Registered Safety Professionals and the Women in Occupational Health & Safety Society (WOHSS). I’m currently the Vice Chair of WOHSS, and we’re doing some fantastic things with networking between experienced safety professionals and those just starting their careers.”
For Shannon, helping organizations improve their health and safety management systems while building a better future for all safety professionals is paramount, and she’s proud to be part of making that happen.
$40,000 to $105,000
Bachelor’s degree Biological Anthropology
Canadian Registered Safety Professional
Salary, education and advancement may vary from company to company.