Before Vancouver-based safety trainer Tanya Steele became a safety professional, she worked in the film industry doing ambulance standby for stunts.
“When I wasn’t on-set, I was teaching the emergency medical responder and Occupational First Aid Level 3 courses part-time. One day they needed a first aid attendant for set construction, which propelled me into construction and the start of my safety career.
“I then took every safety course known to man and started my own company, called ER Plus Risk Management Group. We supplied first aid attendants and construction safety officers to construction sites. Over the next 10 years I went on trips around the world to such places as the Congo, Venezuela, and Malawi. I supplied medical help and taught first aid in the orphanages to ‘house moms.’ I also taught safety to the construction workers who were building homes.”
Steele had to teach her students creativity.
“They don’t have the medical resources or supplies, including bandages and splints, that Canadians take for granted,” she said. “So we often took the simple materials on hand, such as the thin mats they sleep on, and improvised new, medical uses for them.”
She has since sold her company and moved on.
“Now I am a regional safety advisor with the BC Construction Safety Alliance (BCCSA), as well as safety trainer, education adviser and speaker for other organizations,” she said.
Steele says she “loves” being a BCCSA regional safety advisor.
“It gives me the opportunity to mentor new, up-and-coming safety personnel,” she said. “I had hit a time in my life when I started to ask ‘What is my legacy?’, ‘What am I leaving behind?’
“Since I have no children, safety is my baby. I want to give back, make a mark, make a difference in the industry. Whether it’s a new construction safety officer, someone in HR who has recently become a company’s safety person, or an occupational health and safety manager or small business owner who is trying to figure it all out, I spend my days mentoring, coaching and teaching them to succeed.”
Steele says she wants to change the safety industry through education.
“My personal goal has always matched the BCCSA’s mandate to ‘Make Safety Simpler’,” she said. “To be effective, an organization’s safety instructions to its workers don’t need to be long and complicated with a lot of convoluted lingo. They just need to be understandable.
“There is nothing more rewarding than when you visit someone who is feeling overwhelmed with life, business and safety, and you can give them practical, efficient tools and skills that makes everything simple.”
Steele says safety should focus on interpersonal relationships.
“Relationships are about spending time with people, being authentic and good communication,” she said.
Steele says the foundation of everything she does is service.
“I believe that when you serve and help someone with their need, find out how to make their life a little easier, you will become a person of influence. Maybe even save someone’s life.”
Steele is an advocate of in-person training.
“Although some information can be given online or in a video format, having someone talk to you and show you always make a huge difference for retention. I once did a session at a conference called ‘Influencing Behaviour Change Through Effective On-site Training.’ We divided the room into five different generations and asked each one how they would like to be taught.”
All five generations in the room said they like to be shown how to do it, and then do it for themselves.
“Electronic training has its place, as do videos, books and manuals, but we learn better in-person. We want somebody to show us, even Millennials.”
On the landing page of Steele’s website, she has written the following: “Nothing extraordinary in life has happened, except by those who dared to believe that there is something inside of them bigger than the circumstance.”
Steele says the statement shows her belief in the power of positive thinking.
“I heard someone say something similar to this when I was in my 20’s. It always reminded me that no matter what life throws at you or what people say, you have to dare to believe that you are created for such a time as this.
“You are created perfectly, and even if we make poor decisions sometimes, sometimes we just need to be dared, to believe we can. I hope someone else will read it and their life will be impacted too.”