Getting to know SLCCC’s Women of Safety Series

Women in the safety profession are making their mark right here in St. Louis. We are delighted to have nine contributors sharing their words of wisdom in this twelve-part series.  Each month, these women will share their perspective on a variety of topics based on their experiences working as a safety professional.

This month, we posed the question, “What piece of advice would you give to someone just starting out in the safety field?”

Connie Yocum
Safety Director
Rock Hill Mechanical Corporation

“Above all, always put safety first.  Build relationships with folks in the field so they trust you enough to be your eyes and ears in the field for near misses, safety issues etc.  Be open and understanding to what people are going through in their lives that may affect their safety or a co-worker’s safety on the job.  It impacts us all.”

Courtney Venhaus
Field Safety Coordinator for the Building Division
Keeley Construction   

“Ask questions and communicate!!  There is so much to learn about safety.  Don’t be afraid to ask questions.  Communication is key in my industry. I am constantly talking to my team and employees on job sites, whether it is in pre installation meetings to communicate expectations, or to explain why a hazard needs to be fixed. Always express your ideas because things are always changing and processes can always improve!”

Deborah Kempf
Safety & Compliance Manager
Kadean Construction

“Make it personal but don’t take it personal.”

Domini Montgomery
Manager, Safety & Risk Management
Saint Louis Zoo

“Find yourself a mentor because you’re going to want one. My manager at the first job I had out of graduate school encouraged me to seek out a mentor. I didn’t. Luckily, this same manager did end up as my mentor down the road. She’s a great leader, knowledgeable safety professional, and she has grown to be a wonderful friend. I owe a lot of credit to her—she really helped me find my passion, and I’m lucky to have her.”

Kathi Dobson
Safety Director

  1. “Find a mentor or a champion to support you in your early stage of your safety career. Organizations such as the ASSP, the AGC, CURT, and NAWIC have emerging/young professional groups that a new safety professional can get involved with to share ideas and resolve common issues. Use social media to your advantage – LinkedIn is still a good way to engage other professionals, but Instagram and any number of other sites also have groups that someone newly entering the profession can use as resources and connections. (ASSP – American Society of Safety Professionals) (AGC – Associated General Contractors) (CURT – Construction Users Round Table) (NAWIC – National Association of Women in Construction)
  2. Don’t compromise your values. Once you head down that path, you won’t be trusted or respected. It’s better to stand up to someone than to condone a situation that may be unsafe.
  3. Believe in yourself – either through education or experience, you have been given a unique opportunity to change the world. Take advantage of that and grow!”

Kirsten Foreshee
Site Safety Coordinator
icon Mechanical

“Keep going, get all the training and experience companies are willing to give you.  When one door closes another always opens.”

Levette McKnight
Environmental Health and Safety Professional

“Educate yourself.  There are terrific programs at all levels of education. Read as much as possible to keep up with the ever-changing field. Determine your area of specialization and get your certifications.  Be a good listener.  Don’t plan on doing the same thing every day at the same time.  Your schedule is dependent on what is happening at your workplace.  Safety is a field that you can grow with.”

Mae Ping Patrick, CIH, CSP
Senior Loss Control Consultant – Risk Control Services
Lockton Companies

“Spend time learning the technical basics in the field but also make sure to work on communication and listening skills.  A lot of times in our profession we are very good at knowing the technical issues but have a harder time expressing them in a meaningful manner to our leadership.  Learning these soft skills early in your career will benefit you throughout your professional journey.  I do believe it is also important to become involved in your local professional associations, be open to continued education and learning new skills, and have set goals to obtain the professional designations.  Finally, I would say that quite simply our profession is about helping to make sure people go home and do the things they enjoy.  We should remember that as we go about our work, and do the same along the way as well in our personal lives.”

Theresa Krueger
Site Safety

“I have been in the safety field for about five years.  The safety field is ever changing and growing, and it is important for safety professionals like me to learn and grow.  I have a great backing of people to rely on and help me whenever needed.  This is what makes a great and successful team.  Get out and talk to the guys in the field. Listen to their concerns and ideas. They are the ones out there working every day and know how to get the job done. Your job is to help them get it done safely.  So, do not be afraid to ask questions, admit when you do not know something, and ask for help and advice when needed.”

If you would like to participate in this series, please contact Tamara Walker at