Denise Howitt, CRSP, CHSC, CRM
People ask me how I got into health and safety. I tell them, “it was an accident.” I was looking for a job for the winter and found a career along the way.
Growing up, I always wanted a career focused on helping people. I always said I wanted to do work that I could see myself doing until I retired. I love learning, so wanted to do something that was not “repetitive and boring.” I had never heard about health and safety other than being told I needed to wear earplugs when working as an usher at rock concerts, and I certainly didn’t know that there were people who did this work for a living.
Back in the winter of 1996, I was working at a landscaping company as an Office Manager. I was only working part time and needed to do something to fill my days. I had signed up with a staffing agency and the recruiter assigned me to work as a receptionist for a company that provided Workers’ Compensation consulting services. It didn’t take me long to start asking questions about the work that the company did and offering to help out with filling out forms. Within a few months, I was offered a permanent position and I have never looked back.
Under the tutelage of some very experienced individuals, I learned about the world of managing WCB claims and representing the interests of employers through the appeals process. The company gradually started to offer more health and safety consulting services. Having seen the impact of workplace injuries and illnesses on injured workers, their families and their employers, I began to learn more about occupational health and safety and found my interest in prevention of workplace injury and illness.
I first heard about CRSP in 1998 when a colleague, Sheldon Redpath, wrote and passed the exam. Understanding what the requirements were to qualify to write the exam, I recognized that a CRSP was a demonstration of competence and a commitment to continuous improvement.
Fast forward a few years to when I decided it was time to get serious about getting the CRSP certification. I studied the examination blueprint and selected courses at the University of Alberta in Certificate in Occupational Health and Safety program that would align with the knowledge I would need to successfully pass the CRSP examination. I finished the U of A program in 2006 and am proud to say that I successfully obtained CRSP certification in 2007.
Along the journey to achieving CRSP, I came to recognize the broad scope of the health and safety profession and the importance of knowing the boundaries of my experience. However, I am continually pushing those boundaries through ongoing education, self-study, mentorship and networking.
As part of my continuous learning, I have gone on to achieve the Certified Health and Safety Consultant (CHSC) and Canadian Risk Management (CRM) designations. Currently in the works is a Bachelor’s Degree in Human Resources.
Having my CRSP helped me obtain my dream job in 2009. My work at EHS Partnerships affords me the opportunity to work with an amazing group of peers and have excellent mentorship. We also have the opportunity to do different and interesting work for clients in many different industries.
I maintain my CRSP, as it is a signal to my peers and to existing and potential clients that I have demonstrated a level of competence and am committed to the work I do.
To aspiring CRSPs, I would recommend taking time and enjoying the journey. Build a network of professionals and explore different areas of practice along the way.
Denise Howitt, CRSP, CHSC, CRM
Project Manager, Senior Safety Specialist
EHS Partnerships Ltd.