Q & A
Women in Forestry
Every day is new: Q&A with field safety consultant Lisa Schneider
By Ellen Cools
Lisa Schneider is a field safety supervisor who subcontracts to Strategic HSE Systems in Peace River, Alta. She is the primary consultant for Peace River Logging, conducting safety inspections on heavy equipment and commercial vehicles, formal safety observations of workers to remedy unsafe behaviours, facilitating safety meetings and more. An avid photographer, she captures her love for the equipment and environment in her pictures on Instagram.
CFI: When did you start working as a field safety consultant? What attracted you to it?
I started in 2011, working for Avenge Energy Services Inc., based out of Peace River, Alta. Honestly, it was a friend who was the owner that got me into the industry. When I first started, I didn’t really know anything about health and safety, so he kind of put me through the training that I needed to go through in order to do my job correctly. So, I worked there from 2011 to 2015, and then in 2015 I started my own company [a numbered company], and I subcontract to Strategic HSE Systems Inc., where we conduct business for a bunch of clients, one of them being Peace River Logging.
CFI: What are your responsibilities as a field safety consultant, specifically in forestry?
It’s different for each company that I work for. So, for Peace River Logging I am responsible for making sure that, obviously, occupational health and safety (OH&S) regulations are complied with on a regular, day-to-day basis. I hold safety meetings, whether it be in a satellite yard or out in active harvesting operations – wherever it’s convenient for the workers. We also have some employees down at the Mercer International pulp mill so I go there and conduct inspections and safety meetings as well. I put up kilometre markers on the off-highway haul roads and in the harvest cut blocks for the trucks and all of the operators to follow, radio frequencies, that sort of thing. I also do National Safety Code Truck Audits on our carrier companies. I do equipment and vehicle inspections for Peace River Logging. I’m part of the joint health and safety committee – I’m the co-chair on that.
CFI: What do you like about it?
Honestly, I love the environment. I love the machines – absolutely love the machines. The bunchers are my favourite machines out there, followed by the skidders. I like seeing the animals, I like seeing the people. Every day is something new. We have a beautiful country around us, so it’s just taking a minute to realize that and take it all in. That’s where my pictures come from. I don’t have anything bad to say about it. It’s just nice, because every time I’m out there for a client it’s a new spot – new people, new faces, new contacts. It’s always new.
CFI: Who have your mentors been in your career?
Definitely Samuel Elkins [owner of Strategic HSE Systems] would be the top one. Working side-by-side with him has been a great experience. He’s very knowledgeable and good at what he does. We have a good balance – he’s more on the office/paperwork side of things, where I’m more field-related.
I also look up to Adam with Peace River Logging – he’s the operations supervisor out on site. We have become good friends throughout the whole operation and any time I have questions that are more operations related that I’m not familiar with, he guides me in the right direction.
And then Jeremy Hand – he got me started in health and safety through Avenge, and I’m forever grateful for that.
CFI: Did you come across any challenges as a woman in the industry? Were you apprehensive about being a woman in a predominantly male industry?
I think being a woman in a male-dominated industry has its own challenges, but for the most part, everyone has been amazing towards me. I think they know I’m there to do a job just like they’re there to do their job, so for the most part I don’t really have a struggle with that. I think the bigger struggle is the safety culture side of things.
I guess when I first started, I was apprehensive, but I’m a people pleaser and a go-getter, so I don’t really take a lot of garbage from other people in general, if I can put that nicely. I’m blunt and outspoken. So, there’s the odd time somebody will try to challenge me, but I wasn’t really intimidated by the forest industry itself.
CFI: Is it rare to see female field safety consultants still?
Definitely, yeah. I have a few friends that have been in health and safety as women, but it’s definitely a more male-dominated field.
CFI: What advice can you share with other women looking to get into forestry, specifically into field safety?
I really enjoy it; I like the flexibility of it. There’s always something new and different, you always have to keep up with the challenges of people needing to learn different ways and legislation changes. It’s something to always be thinking about in the back of your mind. Our goal is to get everyone to go home safely at the end of the day, and, honestly, sometimes that doesn’t happen, but you must educate your people in order to do that. I don’t really have any advice, per se. I generally enjoy my job – like I said, I love the scenery, I love the people I get to work with, and it’s a new challenge every day.
CFI: And, of course, you also get to go out and take some great photos for Instagram!
Yeah, Bernard, the general manager for Peace River Logging, he wanted to start a calendar and he knew I liked taking pictures of the equipment. He said, “Run with it,” and I have. I’ve been interviewed for it by a few people now and won a few photo contests with pictures that I’ve taken. It’s always been a hobby of mine ever since I can remember.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
This post is part of CFI, Pulp & Paper Canada and Canadian Biomass’ Women in Forestry project celebrating International Women’s Day on March 8. Find more content here and follow on social media with the hashtag #WomeninForestry, as well as #IWD2020 and #EachforEqual.