My name is Steve Wallace. I'm currently working in the field
of Safety. I'm currently the Safety Director for the Heavy
Construction Safety Association of Saskatchewan.
In that association, the Safety Director is
also the Executive Director so it not only
entails doing the actual field work (like our
fellow that we have up in Saskatoon does) but
it also entails running the office and taking
care of business, so to speak - as well as
making sure that payroll's met and bills are
paid and that sort of thing.
[Decision To Enter This Particular Occupation:]
Many of the things that I've done have actually
led to the point where I'm at. So if I start,
I probably wouldn't even start with a job first.
In high school I was an athletic trainer.
Because I work currently in Safety, some people
say, "What's that got to do with Safety?" Well,
that's a field of sports medicine or emergency
response, which is part of the Safety field.
So that's really, I guess, where I first got
I attended (at the time it was called) the
Saskatchewan Technical Institute. I took Electronics,
Engineering Technology (flunked calculus).
So I went and worked for a year. I was a Surveyor
for a while and I worked in an Automotive Manufacturing
Plant and decided I didn't want to do that
for the rest of my life. I wanted to use my
head more than my hands and my back. So I returned
back to school.
I took this course called Radiation Protection
Technology in Occupational Health and Safety.
It was a year-long course, again at STI, and
when you graduated it was designed to get people
to go up north to work in the Uranium Mining
Industry - there provide again a very specialised
When I took the course I didn't think of it
as safety, but a very specialised form of safety
in which case we went underground. We designed
ventilation systems and measured their effectiveness
and measured people's exposures to such things
as radiation levels, dust, diesel, any airborne
particulates or contaminants. So that's where
I got started.
Conscious - no. Twenty years ago I didn’t
think that I'm gonna take this really circuitous
route to get to be the head of some safety
association. That wasn't in my mind. So in
some ways you know, it was happen-stance, sort
of just occurred.
But on the other hand when I look back on
it, there were a lot of choices that were made
that did lead you to this point. I tended to
always do things that I thought were interesting
and, you know, always worked to try to do things
to the best of your ability. So, one case I
can't really say that I planned to be at this
point at this stage in my career, but on the
other hand, I think it was just through the
choices that were made that did lead me here.
So I think it's a little of both; a little
bit of fate and a little bit of choices that
you make along the way. But it was no grand
plan to "I'll do this, this and this,
and this is what's gonna happen."
[Change & Adaptability:]
I learned very early on that no matter how
hard you worked or whatever you did, there
would always be things that were, let's say,
be beyond your control. And that all of a sudden
you may have had this great plan for this career
and I mean...
When I first moved up to Eldorado I had planned
that I would be there two years, I'd save a
bunch of money, I'd come out, my wife and I
would buy a house and we'd move to Saskatoon
or whatever. After that we'd spent about six
months up there - we were actually planning
on being lifers. We were gonna stay up north
our whole career. You know, try and save enough
money so by the time we're fifty we'd retire
and that was it. Then things changed along
So our philosophy (or my philosophy) of careers
is probably a little bit different than another
person in that I believe that there is no such
thing as job security. The only security we
truly have is in our ability to get another
job. So if you're talking career path, my whole
career has been in "safety". A lot
of it has been geared towards emergency response
or training of people. So when I look at a
career, I could leave this job and do something
different again and there would still be elements
that are similar. Like now that I'm in more
of a management position it would be possible
to leave the Safety field and go someplace
as a Management. So some people would say that's
a different career and some people would just
say it's an evolution of a career. I have a
hard time, you know, actually determining what
a career is. I actually tend, probably, to
view that a career is just a string of, you
know, jobs that have some thread that connect
[Advancement In This Particular Occupation:]
I guess what I look for in a job is hopefully
a challenge, something that's interesting and
something that I'm gonna like to do. Most people
are gonna work their whole life long, you know,
for the most part. Now, there may be some form
of retirement at some point, but I view that
I'll probably work my whole life long. So I
hopefully want to be involved in something
that is of interest to me, that I hope I feel
is of some value to somebody and, you know,
that provides me with some challenges. What
you have to do then is you sit down and you
evaluate. Like, are you happy where you are?
do you have enough challenges? are you happy
with the monetary awards?
My philosophy's always been, so what if you
made a mistake? Well, you know, I was looking
for a job when this one came along, so it's
not a big deal to go and take a look for another
Inherently, most people are not great at changing.
I mean, that's the human nature. We like to
stay fairly in place or state, if you will.
I think it's important that we have the ability
to adapt and change and technology has come
a long ways. And now, you know, we're running
around with things like little laptop computers
and cell phones which twenty years ago, there
really wasn't a laptop computer.
I'd like to think of myself as personable
and as having some people skills and that if
I have a goal or set a target that I'm persistent
enough to kind of keep at it until I get there.
Or, conversely, if it doesn't appear to be
working I analyze - is the target worthwhile
going at or should we shift directions? So
there's nothing wrong with being persistent,
keeping at something. But sometimes you have
to take a step back and take a look. Is the
target still worth achieving? Or is it going
to do what we want? And if it isn't, well then
maybe we should re-shift our focus. So I think
that sort of paradoxical persistence but also
being prepared to look at what is our goal
(our target) that we're trying to achieve.
I think, if you want to call it a goal or being
focused, that's a big part too.
[Attitude & Positive Behaviour:]
A positive attitude isn’t going to get
you up a mountain if you don't know where the
hell the mountain is. However, again kind of
getting back to that last thing, is if you
are clear in your goals and you're focused,
a positive attitude can help you make your
way through there. Because a lot of time if
you're going to be achieving or trying to strive
for a goal, you're going to find there's going
to be setbacks. You're going to have rejections.
There are going to be people who are going
to be negative against what you're trying to
do and all that. So a positive attitude can
help give you a little bit of buoyancy to go
A lot of what I do is people-oriented so people
skills are very, very important and experience
[Training & Education:]
I don't want to say that training isn't important
but I think once you get to a certain point
in your career; it's sort of like when you
look at a person's resume when they first start
out. I mean, all their education and all that
stuff is right there but after you've been
working in a field for a number of years, pretty
soon who really cares what high school you
If you're starting out, people skills will
help and any experience you can get will help,
but obviously the base then is founded upon
probably a little heavier on training. So,
at my stage, I would probably say the people
skills and experience are probably more important.
But I don't want to downplay the training because
that allowed me a base to get me where I am
[Advice For Someone Entering This Field Of
If they were interested in my particular career
in Safety, probably for most people now the
best way is through some form of education
- whether they've worked for a number of years
in a given trade and then taken night courses
or something like that. Or they go to some
place like Ryerson in Toronto or BCIT and they
take a two- or four-year course in Occupational
Health and Safety. I don't think one way or
the other is better. A lot of it is going to
depend on that individual.