Stories

Steve Hall, EHS Lead Manager Canada, AFL

School of Occupational Health and Safety, Certificate in Health, Safety and Environmental Processes (CHSEP) Alumnus, Sandermoen School of Business, Executive MBA Student

Health & Safety Beginnings, Trial by Fire

 

After 10-years in the Canadian forces as a firefighter, Steve Hall retired and made a move into the oil and gas sector as a civilian. He took a job at a safety company as a firefighter, but this did not go as planned:

“So, I showed up at the company, and they had no fire jobs, so, they said, ‘We have a safety job open today. Here’s a truck and here’s a map if you want to work, go ahead.’ So, I said, ‘sure, I just want to work,’ and I ended up on a sour site, and I was the safety guy, and I knew nothing about health and safety.”

With so much to learn, it can be difficult to break into the health and safety field. Steve recalled his first night shift while working for a security company:

“I remember the first day I (worked) night shift, and I was at the front entrance of the site. A consultant came up to me and said, ‘I’ve fired 19-guys in 19-days from your organization; however, I’ve been watching you tonight, and I like how you operate. I would like to keep you.’ I said, ‘Well, that’s good because I’d like to have a job as well.’ It was definitely ‘trial by fire,’ but I learned very quickly that safety is not a position that you’ll ever know 100%. It’s just a constant learning type of profession.”

Over the next few years, he moved through a few different safety companies, helped in different positions, and progressed quickly.  He developed a wealth of experience in all sorts of safety roles. “I’ve done pretty much every aspect of safety, food safety even, a lot of ergonomics, oil, and gas, new construction, and drilling completions,” Steve said.

 

The UFred Impact

 

Pursuing his formal education, Steve quickly realized how much he did not know. “You need to be constantly educating yourself, or you’re never going to go anywhere.” Steve knew he would need the type of education that would provide immediate benefit and not require that he leave his job. He looked to UFred to help him to gain the credentials he needed to be successful in his chosen path; he knew experience alone would not suffice:

“I’m a big proponent of experience; experience is huge. However, you need that academic training behind you. I believe it was the day after I was taking certain modules with UFred, I was applying that knowledge. I found it useful right away, not like a bachelor degree where you would use it in practice later on. 100% of the material, I was applying right away. So, it was probably one of the best formal education courses I’ve received.”

A traditional classroom would have been a poor fit for Steve.  He needed a flexible and innovative health and safety program:

“I am proud to be part of a progressive organization. All too often, these formal academic institutions are very slow to change. They are very bricks and mortar focused, and they’re behind by dozens of years with adult education. Adult learners are all over the globe, most executives travel constantly, and there are all these factors that prohibit us from attending their institutions. It’s great to have an institution that’s progressive, leading the market in health and safety education.”

 

Steve has been impressed with the user-friendly platform offered by UFred for his courses, and the system seems prepared to handle the special needs of professionals on the move:

“I was very hesitant at first about doing education online, due to technical issues. That user-friendly capability – I’ve attended classes in between flights at the airport, at hotels, you name it. I’ve streamed from my phone on the side of the road, and I’ve never had an IT issue. The platform is extremely easy to use.”

Bridging to Continued Education

 

In early 2015, Steve acquired an EHS Manager position with AFL. Fairly quickly, he moved into a national role, and now, he has international responsibilities. Around the same time, he took the next step in his educational path and started the Executive MBA degree program at the Sandermoen School of Business:

“I used the certificate to springboard into the EMBA. As I went through the training, I realized, ‘wow, this is extremely beneficial, so what will the next level look like?’ I find I’m now in a corporate position and I’m dealing with business leaders that all have MBAs or 20/30 years of business experience. So, I wasn’t talking the same language. That’s why I looked at an MBA.”

The best part for Steve was that he could combine learning about business with courses designed specifically for his skill set, by enrolling in the Executive MBA with a specialty stream in Health and Safety Leadership. “Everything you are doing is related to your current position in health and safety. You’re instantly able to apply that knowledge. You can learn it, and it was relevant, almost immediately,” he said, and added, “dealing with Economics, Finance, and the time value of money, those aren’t easy concepts to wrap your head around when you’re solely focused on health and safety. Wow! I’ve really stepped up my game now.”