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Okanagan College student passionate about building a lasting health and safety culture
Okanagan College Media Release

Ron Glave Aug 2016Ron Glave initially got into construction because he needed something to do during the off-season from skiing. Twenty years later, he’s passionate about having a lasting effect on the construction industry’s health and safety culture.

Glave is the Occupational Health and Safety Manager for the Vic Van Isle Group based in Revelstoke, B.C. He’s also currently completing the Occupational Health & Safety (OH&S) certificate via an online course with Okanagan College, and will graduate this December.

“The first five-to-ten years I worked in construction there was still very much a culture of male bravado,” says Glave. “People were regularly taking unnecessary risks and nobody was coming around asking ‘where’s your protection?’ Now, our industry is changing and maturing. Safety leadership is more common than before. I think it’s more important to come from a genuine concern for everybody’s wellbeing rather than strictly from a compliance standpoint. Stronger cultures also develop from logic and reason rather than shall and must.”

Glave moved to Revelstoke nine years ago from Whistler, where he had just completed his first real safety gig at the 2010 Olympic Nordic Centre. His family had recently relocated to Revelstoke, and Glave, after years of industrial carpentry, followed his father’s recommendation to apply with Vic Van Isle Construction.

“I distinctly remember meeting with their safety manager, and being asked the standard interview question ‘Where do you see yourself in three to five years?’ I answered: ‘I want your job.’ And ultimately I got it.”

The company Glave began working for was rapidly expanding – going from a crew of seven to over 100 in 18 months on the Revelstoke Mountain Resort (RMR) project alone. Nine years later, the Vic Van Isle group has had hundreds of employees, with work in B.C., Alberta, and Ontario, and divisions in commercial/ industrial construction, independent Rona Building Centers, architectural millwork manufacturing, and heavy equipment rental, mechanics, and welding.

With strong work ethic and a variety of skills, Glave moved from taking care of first aid and carpentry for the first six months of the RMR project to spending 12 months as the onsite safety manager. Then in an unexpected turn of events the 2008 recession hit, and he was promoted into construction management.

“Health and safety is definitely a great field to be in,” says Glave. “It’s growing, it’s necessary, and it’s rewarding. It’s great knowing that I’m making a difference, and that over time all the little wins, and big wins, are positively changing the culture.”

But there certainly are challenges.

“It can be difficult at times. I’m not in the make money column, I’m in the save money column – and sometimes it’s hard for people to see the value right away. It also can take time, patience and persistence to turn around a very aged safety culture.”

One of the reasons Glave is taking the OH&S course at the College is to prepare for his Canadian Registered Safety Professional, which is a professional designation that will increase his value to his company and the industry. Another thing that appeals to Glave is the networking opportunities the program provides, particularly because the health and safety field is mostly lacking in available mentors.

“You can feel like you’re on an island by yourself. Unless you work with a large organization with multiple safety professionals that you can train under, you’re left sourcing a lot of important information on how to do things on your own. It’s great to be able to meet other safety professionals, connect to mentors, build a rapport, and know that we’re there to support each other. It definitely gives you the confidence and feeling of support to deal with the variety of situations coming your way.”

Glave has an insider perspective on Okanagan College. He’s worked with them previously while building the Human Resources department within Vic Van Isle, assisting with the College’s Seven Weeks of Certificates (employment skills development), and Fast Track program. He’s instructed employment and start-up skills programs at the College. He recommends his staff for professional development in office skills, project management, first aid, and he currently sits on the OC advisory committee board.

He credits his close connection to the College, especially his membership on the advisory committee, to his unique perspective as to why he thinks Okanagan College is so valuable.

“I find the College very forward-thinking, engaged, and supportive of the communities they’re in. On the advisory committee, I get to see the thinking and planning that goes into the community involvement initiatives, as well as how to Okanagan College stays competitive and relevant.”

As much as Glave is enjoying the OH&S online course, there’s definitely a drawback: staying focused during the summer takes additional discipline.

“It’s not a heavy workload, it’s just allocating the time to be consistent (studying and completing assignments) while balancing out the rest of life’s responsibilities. It also matters a lot what else you have going on in your life as in my case: working full-time, family, volunteering, relationships, friends, active playing, building a horse barn and a fourth season of beekeeping. In the end though, I know it’s all very worthwhile.”

To find out more about Okanagan College’s Occupational Health & Safety certificate, visit www.okanagan.bc.ca/ohs.