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Woman Behind the Title: Sheri Benson

PUBLISHED
September 10, 2019

WRITTEN BY
Raphaela Mandel

As we continue our series on the Woman Behind the Title, we’re excited to share a third woman based out of Calgary, Alberta.

Starting her journey at the University of Alberta in the Occupational Health and Safety program, she immediately felt a powerful connection to a career that would allow her to support the health and wellness of the people within her organization.

She began her career in the energy sector, growing through the ranks at multiple organizations from an HSE Administrator to an HSE Manager. From the beginning of her career, she believed strongly that a thriving health and safety system requires strong leadership, a clear culture, and the trust in management that comes from consistent support and development of employees.

These beliefs have been affirmed throughout her career in corporate health and safety, and led her to co-found Corpora, a firm supporting its clients by creating empowered and engaged employees endeared to the objectives of their organization.

Who is this remarkable trailblazer? Sheri Benson. As you continue to read, you’ll find health and safety is much more than just a job to her. Like many of her peers, Sheri has a strong connection to the health and safety industry as it hit home. She continues to drive positive change and be the change agent we all need in our safety programs.

We encourage you and your team to recognize women like Sheri. They aren’t as rare as you may think. They are forces to be reckoned with and they inspire each and every one of us.

Nominate someone like Sheri in your workplace, today. Not tomorrow, not next week, not next month. Take action to recognize women in our industry who are just like Sheri.

For more information and to nominate an inspirational female leader: Women in EHS Award

Nominations are due September 25th, 2019.


Raphaela: How did you get started in the safety world?

Sheri: My safety journey began 7 years ago when I came across the Occupational Health and Safety program offered through the University of Alberta. As I read through the program and did research on the field, I felt a strong sense of connection. My father had been involved in a workplace injury, years prior, and my brother was working in the oil and gas industry, so safety fell very near and dear to my heart.

Working with people and supporting their health and wellness has always been a passion of mine and finding a career where I had the opportunity to serve, coach and mentor was a perfect fit. Knowing I would make a difference in others’ lives solidified my decision to embark on this journey.

Raphaela: What has been the biggest obstacle you’ve had to overcome?

Sheri: One of the biggest obstacles has been driving positive and pro-active culture change, particularly through changes brought on by the downturn. Navigating cost reductions, acquisitions, numerous organizational structure shifts, and facility closures has been a difficult task. In the process, many companies have adopted a “do more with less” approach to operations, automating processes and training programs.

However, automation of the safety management system removes an integral element – human relationship. A healthy safety culture can only be achieved when employees trust the integrity of their leadership and their safety system, and feel included, heard and valued. This requires commitment and personal involvement from all levels of the organization. When the company’s values, goals and mission are not visibly embodied in day to day operations, the safety culture and trust in leadership that form the foundation of the health, growth, success and performance of the team erode.

 
 

Raphaela: How can team members help empower women in the workplace?

Sheri: I believe we need to do a better job of communicating and acknowledging our peers. When things go wrong, we tend to be quick to provide feedback, but we don’t always stop to celebrate each other’s successes (big or small), or consistently provide positive feedback. At the base of all relationships are communication and trust. When we build strong relationships, we can build strong teams.

Take a moment each day to actively seek out ways to spread positivity. Listen to understand, thank someone for their contribution, tell them when they’ve done a great job or that you appreciate them. Be an encourager and use your power to empower others.

Raphaela: What are some pieces of advice you’d offer to fellow safety professionals?

Sheri: It is important to be clear on our “why” and allow this to lead our decision making. Why are we endeavouring to work safely? When we narrow our focus to short-term results and gains, we can lose sight of the culture required for long-term success. When we become clear on our direction and determine our motivation or create an emotional connection to the goal (both as individuals and teams) then we can realize long-term success.

No matter how you contribute to workplace safety, thank you. Thank you for your dedication to serving others and making a difference in your workplace and industry. Thank you for being a voice for many and having the courage to stand up when it’s not easy. Remember that every interaction is an opportunity to make an impact. Even if you don’t always hear it, you are making a difference in people’s lives every day. There is no greater reward than this.

With a true “why” to keep her going, Sheri Benson continues to inspire those around her – far and wide. She reminds us to praise our team, be grateful, and to keep going, no matter what. Her passion for keeping people safe in every situation has led her to creating a successful safety program and one her colleagues are proud of.

Women like Sheri show us the sky is the limit if you have a passion and a true “why.” We know someone like this in every safety program. Look around. And then look a bit more. There she is. Recognize her and nominate her for our Women in EHS Award.

For more information and to nominate an inspirational female leader for our Women in EHS Award awarded at NXT 2019: Women in EHS Award.

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