To recognize extraordinary safety leadership qualities in the ski industry, go2HR and the Canada West Ski Areas Association (CWSAA) annually present the Young Safety Mogul Award. It recognizes the vital role young health and safety advocates can play in influencing their peers.
“Young supervisors/leaders can champion a safety-oriented culture that benefits your workplace and your entire industry. It’s especially true in the ski industry and other tourism and hospitality sectors that employ young workers,” says Arun Subramanian, the director of industry health and safety at go2HR. “It’s critical that staff have role models from their peer group to emulate. We hope this award helps create those role models.”
2021 award winner Adrien Grabinski, 21, lives and breathes safety as ski patrol director of Shames Mountain (My Recreational Mountain Cooperative) west of Terrace. “Safety is paramount – it’s absolutely the most important thing on our ski hill,” he says. “It’s near to my heart.”
He joined the Shames team in 2019 and immediately took a lead role in promoting the company’s safety culture. Seventy people work seasonally alongside 20 volunteers. Most are in the 20- to 35-years-old range. “Adrien’s calm demeanor and approach to addressing safety concerns is what has made his influence so strong with his peers,” says general manager Christian Theberge. “He leads by example. Even corrective measures are delivered in a way that feels educational instead of punitive.”
One of Grabinksi’s initiatives has improved the hill’s end-of-day patrol sweep process. Before his arrival, new sweepers received a 30-second crash course and were given a run. Now they get trained to properly sweep each run and are paired with an experienced sweeper before working on their own.
Safety programs require management support
“Safety can be very exciting when you try to limit the consequences that can occur,” says Grabinksi, who’s also a competitive skier. When teaching his staff safe work procedures to reduce the risks to skiers and themselves, “it’s about taking the time to make sure everything is in place,” he emphasizes. “Rushing can lead to the worst outcome.”
Grabinski says support from management has made his work even more effective. “They are very strong advocates for safety,” he says.
Shames built its safety culture through teamwork. “Working collaboratively is practically the definition of our organization,” says Theberge. The company provides training, consults and partners with outside experts, and actively seeks grants to improve its safety programs.
“We use the CWSAA conference as our best mentoring and sharing tool,” he adds. “We probably bring the largest team of all the small resorts. Exposing our staff to other ski areas is invaluable.”
The go2HR Young Mogul Safety Award winner gets a ticket to the annual CWSAA Spring conference but since it was moved to a virtual platform this year, due to COVID-19, Grabinski received a $1,300 cheque instead. go2HR announced that Adrien was the 2021 award winner in front of his peers during a risk and safety session at the virtual conference.
How to identify young safety champions
So what are the key qualities to look for when identifying safety champions and leaders on staff? “The first is the ability to stay calm under pressure,” says Theberge. “The second I call vision but is probably better described as critical thinking. Adrien has that – slowing down a situation and really seeing it fully.”
Another quality is a commitment to learning. Grabinski, for example, plans to continue his education in snow safety. He’ll pursue his Canadian Avalanche Association Operations Level 2 and Association of Canadian Mountain Guides accreditation. He also wants to help Shames move towards COR certification through go2HR. COR is a voluntary audit and incentive program that recognizes employers who go beyond legal requirements, are proactive about improving workplace safety and dedicated to continual improvement.
Age isn’t a factor in safety leadership, he says. “Experience and a deeper understanding of safety is more important.” Employers benefit when they encourage young workers to take on workplace safety responsibilities. “They can bring a fresh perspective,” Grabinski points out.
His boss agrees. “Investing in someone grows them,” says Theberge.” It’s a benefit to the business and the industry.”
To learn about go2HR’s Young Safety Mogul Award, or for information on workplace health and safety, contact firstname.lastname@example.org. go2HR offers a variety of free occupational health and safety resources for the ski sector and new and young workers.