Safety culture doesn't stop at work for this refurb inspector
For Christy DeCarlo, a strong safety mindset isn’t something left at work at the end of the day.
The CanAtom Quality Control Inspector and Level 2 Welding Inspector working on OPG’s Darlington Refurbishment recently made a report on unsafe work taking place outside her home.
“There was a group working on an elevated work platform — they weren’t tied off and were climbing on the rails,” she recalled.
DeCarlo went to her apartment’s management office and vocalized the risk management was taking by allowing contractors to work in an unsafe manner on their property.
“Management stopped the job,” DeCarlo said, noting her rationale for speaking up was simple: “I couldn’t live with myself if something happened.”
A pipefitter by trade since 2010, DeCarlo’s previous career path helped shape her safety mindset. As a hospital unit clerk, including time spent in the Operating Room at Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children, she saw firsthand what could happen.
“Seeing what I saw in the hospital drove home the importance of taking the time for working safe, to pause before taking on a task.”
DeCarlo moved out of hospital work, completing an apprenticeship in western Canada through the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology. Before joining the Darlington Refurbishment project in February 2017, DeCarlo had been working as a commissioning pipefitter at a potash mine in Saskatchewan.
Safety culture has been prevalent wherever DeCarlo has worked, but on the Darlington Refurbishment, which involves many companies working toward the same goal, safety is layered throughout.
Throughout her career, DeCarlo has been comfortable in intervening when she sees something unsafe happening. In general, such intervention has been well received by her colleagues.
“The positive response to coaching really reinforces safety culture,” she said.
And she’ll carry on intervening where necessary – whether at work or elsewhere.
“I never want to be the person who says after an accident, ‘Yeah, I saw him doing that, and I looked the other way,’” DeCarlo said.
Statistics show as little as five per cent of Ontario’s tradespeople are female, and the number was even smaller in her group when DeCarlo began her pipefitter apprenticeship: she was the only woman in a group of 75.
At first, it wasn’t easy.
“It was challenging at times, but I developed broader shoulders and thicker skin,” she said. “There were times early on when I really thought I’d pack it in. But I decided I wasn’t going to let someone else’s behaviour change the course of my life.”
There is plenty of opportunity for women in trades, and she’d encourage other young women to consider the career path.
“If you are curious and have some mechanical aptitude, enquire with your local trade unions — don’t let your gender hold you back. Go for it!”