Industrial Safety and Loss Management Program
Places Emphasis on People and Environment First

By Kimberly Nishikaze

Laird Wilson, P.Eng., head of the University of Alberta's Industrial Safety and Loss Management Program - "It used to be the emphasis was mostly on the bottom line, but now companies are realizing that by improving industrial safety and loss management practices they can have a very positive impact on production and profits. It's in their best interest.

With support from APEGGA, the University of Alberta’s Industrial Safety and Loss Management Program has produced a new publication "Basic Learnings in Industrial Safety and Loss Management".

"People of my era didn’t receive this kind of education, they had to learn it by the school of hard knocks," states Laird Wilson, P.Eng., as he recalls his extensive career in industry. "Now you don’t have to work 10 years to understand it."

It’s an advantage that today’s university engineering and geoscience students have over their predecessors. The University of Alberta’s Industrial Safety and Loss Management Program (ISLMP), headed up by Prof. Wilson, is becoming recognized across the country as both innovative and necessary if graduates are to succeed in the workplace. The emphasis of the program is an understanding of the principles and practices required to reduce the risk to people, the environment, assets and production — in that order. It focused on average programs in the beginning, and over the years has picked up the very best examples of industry procedures, practices and standards. The program continues to expand because of industry encouragement and appreciation.

"It used to be the emphasis was mostly on the bottom line, but now companies are realizing that by improving industrial safety and loss management practices they can have a very positive impact on production and profits. It’s in their best interest," says Prof. Wilson.

What began in the fall of 1989 as a fourth-year engineering course on mining safety has become a full-time job for Prof. Wilson. He consulted with industry and APEGGA to develop the program. The program now has advanced to incorporate the best of industry practices and the latest techniques. It is aimed at fourth-year engineering students of all disciplines. However, there are also special additional lectures to second and third-year students to provide them with a basic understanding. This also includes co-op students prior to their first work term.

In nearly ten years, the ISLMP has graduated 1,500 students. Prof. Wilson says that today when his students visit a company for a site tour, it’s often one of his graduates who is responsible for leading the tour and explaining his or her company’s risk management practices.

Recently, APEGGA and the ISLMP worked together to produce a publication entitled, "Basic Learnings in Industrial Safety and Loss Management". Authored by Prof. Wilson with input from a diverse corporate advisory committee, it outlines the principles of risk management as they apply to the engineering and geoscience professions. Beginning next July, individuals writing the APEGGA Professional Practice Examination will be questioned on the principles of industrial safety practices. Al Schuld, P.Eng., APEGGA’s Deputy Registrar and Director of Administration, says the ISLMP program developed by the University of Alberta includes material that is a necessary part of the knowledge of newly registered professionals. It is his hope that this material will replace the current content on the exam derived from the Workers Compensation Act and other provincial legislation, making it easier to read and understand.

In addition to sponsoring the production costs of the publication for the ISLMP, APEGGA is contributing $5,000 per year over three years (1997-99) as interim funding to support the development of the program. Members of the ISLMP advisory committee are also contributors of both major capital and interim operational funding. The program has approximately $2 million in capital funding thus far and requires an additional $1 million to establish a fully funded chair.

"Engineering is a very tough program," says Prof. Wilson, "This course emphasizes an appreciation of the work of members of an interdisciplinary team, including technicians, trades and others with different skills. This adds to an engineer’s ability to become a more effective team member."

His team approach and philosophy is spreading to other campuses across the country. Already a guest lecturer at The University of Calgary, he has received expressions of interest and co-operation from the University of Waterloo, the University of Toronto and the Technical University of Nova Scotia (TUNS).

In the fall of 1999, a joint conference with the University of Waterloo and industry will be hosted in Edmonton. Geared toward engineers, geoscientists and operating managers involved in the business of risk/loss management, the two-day conference will receive technical papers and hold workshops to share the best industry practices in industrial safety and loss management. Held every two years, it coincides with the meeting of the Major Industrial Accident Council of Canada and marks the third time the conference will be held in Alberta (look to future issues of The PEGG for more information).

Laird Wilson’s vision is to one day have each and every engineering and geoscience student enrolled in the ISLMP to ensure high standards are met and future losses are greatly reduced. He is inspired and energized by his students and the supportive faculty members at the University of Alberta. "I’m delighted that after 30 years of practice in industry (oil, gas, chemicals and oil sands), I’m really energized by receiving the positive feedback from my students as they come to understand the ideas and principles I have been teaching all these years."