Shelagh Robinson: 2022 OHS Canada Hall of Fame inductee
Health & Safety 2022 OHS Honours OHS Canada Hall of Fame OHS Honours Shelagh Robinson
Shelagh Robinson never planned to have a career in occupational health and safety.
For more than two decades, she served the residents of Saskatoon as a paramedic — responding to emergency calls, helping people and saving lives.
But then one night she suffered a catastrophic back injury while helping a patient.
“I took a couple of days off, it didn’t get better,” she said. “It continued to get worse. I just never did get the functional ability back.”
It quickly became clear that she could never return to the job she had done for two decades.
“I spent some with the WCB and so, when they decided ‘OK, well you can’t be a paramedic on the street anymore. But we’ve taken this industrial contract at a potash mine,’” she said.
They offered her a job working in a trailer at the mine, treating patients brought to her by the rescue team. “We just need you to be a paramedic,” they told her. It was music to her ears.
“I jumped up and I think I was in my truck the next day to go to work,” said Robinson. “It was an opportunity to go back to work and I desperately wanted to go back to work.”
And that’s when her journey into the world of OHS really began. Once she was on the job site, she started meeting safety professionals — and they had a totally different mindset.
“As a paramedic, or anybody in emergency services, you’re constantly on the go — and you never really think about safety,” she said.
There are no work refusals. You have to answer the call.
“You have a high-risk mentality for safety,” she said. “But when I got to the potash mine, I started meeting all these safety professionals and saw how they investigate an injury or an incident.”
That was a light bulb moment for her, and led to career that has taken her across the country, working as an injury management professional for countless organizations — from Baffin Island to Vancouver Island — including her current role at Supreme Steel.
The ability to help injured workers from a different vantage has been incredibly satisfying, she said.
“I am proud that I can be the liaison between an injured worker and their employer,” said Robinson.
“Having been injured at work, I like that I can help another worker through their injury and recovery process.”
Working with employers that want to take care of their workforce is rewarding — “I like advocating for a company that truly puts their employees’ safety first.”
The next generation
The next generation of safety professionals need to build their careers on their life experiences and strengths, she said.
“Safety shouldn’t be a secret, so when you create something that works and helps keep others safe, share it and keep improving it,” said Robinson. “Because ultimately it’s our family and friends that will benefit the most from our work. And really, isn’t that the point of what we all strive for in business?”
Next up for Robinson is an increased focus on workplace mental health. She is completing her Mental Health First Aid Facilitator course with the Mental Health Commission of Canada and will help organizations implement the National Standard of Canada for Psychological Health and Safety in the Workplace.