Quebec CEO first Canadian named to National Safety Council
Former teacher Chantal Trépanier aims to bring unique perspective to U.S. board
Marcel Vander Wier
In October, Chantal Trépanier was named to the National Safety Council (NSC) board of directors.
It marks the first time a Canadian will sit on the 100-year-old U.S. board based in Itasca, Ill., which serves to eliminate preventable deaths at work, home, in communities and on roadways.
Trépanier has led Cognibox — a risk management and contractor compliance company — for the past two decades.
She lives in Shawinigan, Que.
Q. What does it mean for you to be the first Canadian named to the NSC?
A. I am honoured to be the first Canadian named on the board of the NSC. There are similar challenges in the USA and Canada to achieve the vision of eliminating preventable deaths, so being able to contribute in finding winning strategies in those efforts in our two countries, and to learn from other members on the NSC is a unique privilege for which I am grateful.
Q. Can you describe the importance of this council across North America?
A. The NSC is an influential leader and its depth, experience and knowledge can make a real impact on organizations across North America. I am impressed in particular with how the NSC advocates safe practices generally and thereby promotes workers’ well-being beyond the workplace environment. When safe practices and mindsets are integrated in all aspects of life, this not only contributes to safer communities and families, but also means there is a greater likelihood that they seamlessly became part and parcel of the workplace.
Q. What unique perspectives do you bring to the NSC board?
A. My perspective comes from more than 20 years helping very high-risk, world-class organizations reduce fatalities and serious injuries in their own workforce and those of their contractors. The goal is the same whether workers are employees or contractors, but I have learned first-hand that the means to achieve it cannot be the same. This is a lesson that I am applying daily — there is no one-size-fits-all approach to address all possible cases, and being attentive to the context of each stakeholder helps in introducing lasting and effective solutions.
Q. How will your past experience in OH&S guide your efforts with the NSC?
A. I began my professional journey teaching arts, then I became a primary school teacher and finally for five years I was teaching pedagogy at university to future teachers — an unconventional start to an OHS career. This background gave me the capacity to instill in my colleagues the assurance that they can allow themselves to be creative and to reach beyond what they might have thought to be possible before being tasked with a given assignment — since one of the main challenges in health and safety is still education and the transfer of knowledge, as well as change in behaviour. Great challenges remain before reaching the goal of zero preventable deaths, and solutions have yet to be imagined. I hope to help catalyze innovation and, in that way, make a difference.
Q. What do you think is the most pressing issue in occupational health and safety today?
A. Looking at the data on fatalities versus injuries and illnesses in the last 20 years — with a steady decline for the latter versus a plateau for fatalities — I cannot help but think that we have not done enough in workplaces. The OHS professional community has not universally embraced and implemented structured risk-based and process approaches, or the different tools required to eliminate the low-occurrence fatalities versus high-occurrence, lesser-consequence injuries. A new decade is upon us and although technology is everywhere in some aspects of our lives, we have not made enough strides to implement it to better manage safety at work.
Q. How do you hope to use your influence to instill change in this position?
A. We are in a time of diversity and inclusiveness. Men represent 96 per cent of work-related fatalities in Canada. Granted, they disproportionally occupy a greater percentage than women of high-risk jobs, but have they been guided through the last decades by diverse points of views to drastically change their approach? A female arts teacher by training — now a tech CEO — might help disrupt some ingrained thinking just enough to change how we have approached workplace fatalities so far.