New health and safety advisors support the needs of Alliance membersKathy Sigstad
Supporting the needs of Alliance members
By Lisa Thibault
The Alliance has made substantial changes to enhance service delivery and address the changing health and safety needs of BC’s manufacturers and food processors. The pandemic has created new demand for specialized health and safety services in occupational hygiene and mental health.
As a result, in May, we welcomed two new team members—Andrea McKinlay, a Registered Psychiatric Nurse with more than 15 years of experience working in mental health and addiction and Raj Hans, an occupational hygienist with a Master of Science in Occupational and Environmental Hygiene.
We sat down with Andrea and Raj to help you get to know them.
Tell us about your role with the Manufacturing Safety Alliance of BC
Raj: I’m one of two occupational hygienists with the Alliance, based in the Kelowna office. Hygienists use science to anticipate, identify, and control exposures in the workplace. I love being able to take science and apply it to protect people in the workplace. As a hygienist, I work with employers to ensure people feel safe at work.
Andrea: My role is as a mental health adviser and practitioner, which is a brand-new area of specialty at the Alliance. I am based in Chilliwack and will be offering support to companies across the province.
What’s a typical “day-in-the-life” like for you?
Andrea: Right now, I’m involved in building the mental health strategy, and I’m also working on a return-to-work initiative. I’ve been reaching out to members to discuss some of the barriers and issues they encounter with return-to-work. There are a lot of reasons that might require people to be off work. I’m also looking at the mental health aspects of coming back to work after an absence.
Raj: There really is no “typical” day at the Alliance. Some days you get out to a member’s site to assess hazards and look at potential risks and options. Other days you might be working on assessments and reports. There are always new people to meet. I work primarily with Northern and Interior members, which includes many small businesses that don’t have expertise in-house for occupational hygiene.
What are you most passionate about in your work?
Raj: I love having an impact and improving the health and well-being of BC workers. Improving workers’ health will help them feel more satisfied and supported in the workplace.
Andrea: I am passionate about removing the stigma around mental health. The new mental health initiatives the Alliance is taking on are inspiring. This work allows us to educate people on mental health in the workplace and to help normalize it. Mental health issues have touched every family—let’s learn to talk about it.
What advice would you give to someone considering a career in health and safety?
Raj: When you are fresh from school, take as many diverse opportunities as possible in your career. Develop communications skills to help get the buy-in from leaders and empower employees to make good decisions regarding their own health. Find a mentor. I was fortunate to have found amazing mentors early on in my career. Some of my former bosses opened up opportunities, while others helped me navigate challenging moments. I’m grateful for their leadership and coaching, which has had a tremendous impact on my growth.
What brought you to the Alliance?
Andrea: I had a long career in health care before this, but as I progressed, I found I was no longer doing the things that brought me to nursing in the first place. I wanted the opportunity to shape health care for people and to create something. I’m excited to be a part of shaping the mental health strategy for the Alliance.
What are you most looking forward to after the pandemic?
Andrea: Travel. We had a trip to Nashville planned just before the pandemic, which we had to cancel. I would love to travel to Southeast Asia.
Raj: Immediately after the pandemic, I’m looking forward to getting out with family and friends. Longer-term, I would love to travel to places outside of Canada.
What can we find you doing when you’re not working?
Raj: I love to run. I started exploring running when the pandemic hit, and now I’m hooked—running washes away all the thoughts and worries of my day.
Andrea: I love to camp with my family—we have a trailer and regularly get outdoors. We are also a huge sports family!
Raj and Andrea are the newest members of the Alliance team of specialists – providing training and services in mental health, occupational hygiene, air quality, noise, combustible dust, machine safeguarding, industrial storage racking, and industrial and office ergonomics.
Need help with health and safety questions?
Alliance advisors are here to support you to create safe workplaces for your employees—so your workers go home safe every day.