OHS Canada Magazine

Q&A: Remembering Alan Quilley

OHS Canada columnist leaves behind legacy of ‘Safety Excellence’


Peacefully at his Alberta home and with his wife Marie by his side, Alan Quilley died April 24 following a short struggle with cancer. He was 67.

Alan Quilley

Quilley, a longtime columnist with OHS Canada, was the president of Safety Results, a consultancy and training service in Sherwood Park, Alta.

According to the Board of Canadian Registered Safety Professionals, Quilley was a CRSP since 1985 and supported many in their journey towards certification as a preparatory course provider, teacher and mentor.

The following was shared by his eldest son, Jason A. Quilley. 

Jason Quilley: It is my unfortunate privilege to be able to share with my father’s professional community some memories about his tireless dedication to creating “Safety Excellence” and improving the working conditions for Canadian employees.

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My father’s passing is a significant loss for all of us. He was a courageous, intelligent, purposeful and principled man. I am grateful for everything he taught me and the ideals he leaves behind.

OHS Canada: What caused Alan’s initial interest in workplace health and safety?

JQ: Reflecting back through our countless conversations about his career and the meaning of work, and how being driven by purpose was more important than being money motivated, I can’t recall the specific reasons he shared about what sparked his interest in workplace safety.

However, examining the evidence may suggest that the following had something to do with it:

My father, “the safety guy” to everyone who knew him in his later years, wasn’t always this way. He has shared this story of ours with some of his students so I’m not telling any tales outside of school.

I think my first joy ride in his brand new 1976 Pontiac LeMans may have been the impetus for his career change from railway carman to safety officer.

I remember Dad parking this car in front of a convenience store and telling me to remain seated in the passenger seat of the car while it was left running.  I remember his face as he exited the store. To see his four-year-old son driving by him, badly, through the parking lot.

I remember my father telling me that he shifted his focus to safety in 1977.  This joyride took place in December 1976.  I am just sayin’.

Longtime OHS Canada columnist Alan Quilley dies after struggle with cancer

OHS: What was Alan’s greatest impact to the OH&S profession?

JQ: This is a difficult question for me to respond to as I was not privy to the countless hours of dedication he invested into his profession and the “BIG” — to him — outcomes his genius would have produced.

However, after reflecting on it a bit, I believe his greatest impact to OH&S profession was to lead by example and demonstrate that safety excellence is personal and it is best achieved with the input of the people whose lives and health the entire profession exists to protect.

My experience of my father at work has cast a long shadow. He was a force. I attended many training seminars with him, usually because he just wanted to spend time with me, and when I did, he made sure to give me something to do to feel useful.

One training session was for 800 people for a quarterly kickoff meeting and I was planted in the audience to study the impact he was having. In dramatic Alan Quilley style, he played some blistering lead guitar solo over some sad slow blues tune while displaying rather shocking and sad images on a huge screen.

The images were of some young men, presumably sons of their deceased father, carrying a casket, the teary-eyed women dressed in black. Pretty dark stuff to be honest.

Then the music faded out and he said, “Which one of your friends will be dating your wife and taking your son to hockey if you get killed at work? Don’t do safety for the company, do safety for you. It’s personal — very personal!”

I watched an entire audience shift their understanding of the value of “Safety Excellence.” Well played, Dad! Bravo.

OHS: Does Alan have any career highlights?

JQ: My father’s first book, “The Emperor has No Hard Hat” was a significant achievement for his company. It is a timeless book that demonstrates why traditional safety programs fail.

In 2006, it won a Globe and Mail honourable mention as one of the best business books of the year. I can remember the humble, yet accomplished smile on his face when he told me. That was a good day.

My father’s career was something he was very proud of and worked hard to build.  His achievements were significant but the most important event in his life was his marriage and partnership to the love of his life, Marie Quilley.

Their relationship transformed my father into an amazing human being. He was cool before, but after Marie entered our lives, he began to really become who he was meant to be.

In the final months of his life, my father and Marie produced new training material for Safety Results from his hospital room. Their CRSP study material required updating and my father left nothing undone. A heroic effort by this dynamic duo.

Marie carries his legacy forward now operating Safety Results, and I know he is pleased that the principles he embodied will carry on.

OHS: What do you think you could share about Alan that OHS Canada readers might appreciate?

JQ: This is an unfair question because I was fascinated by him and I enjoyed every moment (well, maybe not every moment) I spent being his son, student, bandmate and friend.

I believe what has been shared gives you a more personal side to Alan Quilley, because after all, safety is personal.

I love you, Dad.

This Person of Interest feature was published in the May/June 2021 of OHS Canada.


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