Safety Centered Leadership Awards

Service Hospitality recognizes individuals who have taken a leadership role in demonstrating their commitment to safety. The Safety Centered Leadership Awards are bestowed on those who exemplify safety leadership in their business and/or community. Since 2013, we have been recognizing the many safety leaders who have been models and mentors in their organizations. We are pleased to celebrate the below Safety Centered Leadership Award recipients who champion these efforts and create other leaders across Saskatchewan.

2023 SCLA Recipient

Phyllis O’Connor, Executive Director- The Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) – Saskatchewan Division 

A lifetime commitment to mental health support and psychological health and safety.

That is what Phyllis O’Connor represents, which is why Service Hospitality proudly presents her with the 2023 Safety Centered Leadership Award.

Service Hospitality’s most prestigious award does not do justice to the depth of Phyllis’s impact on promoting mental health support and psychological health and safety in Saskatchewan. Phyllis has over 25 years of experience working at the Canadian Mental Health Association (Saskatchewan Division) and seven years in the role of Executive Director.  In addition to her decorated tenure at CMHA SK, Phyllis has also served on the Service Hospitality Board of Directors and the Mental Health Best Practice Group Steering Committee for many years. Phyllis was also a supportive and driving force behind ongoing partnership agreements between Service Hospitality and CMHA SK, lending her credibility to Service Hospitality’s first psychological health and safety tools and training.

Phyllis led the partnership between CMHA SK and Service Hospitality for two joint “We’re Only Human” virtual conferences that started during the pandemic. These conferences allowed over one thousand registrants to connect and learn about positive workplace wellness at a time when all connection was difficult and the need for mental health support had never been greater.

Phyllis also worked alongside Service Hospitality during CMHA SK’s creation of the Difficult Discussions workshop. Following its creation, this concept was piloted by the Mental Health Best Practice Group and is now being adopted by CMHA National to be offered nationwide.

We celebrate Phyllis at the time of her retirement for an extensive career focused on caring for others. Phyllis firmly believes that with the proper support in place, recovery is possible, and people with mental illness can become valuable members of the workforce and their community.  The lead she has taken to bring the conversation around mental health into the workplace has had a lasting impact across all of Saskatchewan.

Thank you, Phyllis, for your leadership, heart, and passion. Congratulations!

2022 SCLA Recipients

Don Meikle, Executive Director – Saskatoon Downtown Youth Centre (EGADZ)
Amanda Griffiths, Program Manager –
Saskatoon Downtown Youth Centre (EGADZ)

Workplaces prosper when safety is at the centre of all business activities. With great pleasure, we announce Don Meikle, Executive Director, and Amanda Griffiths, Program Manager of Saskatoon Downtown Youth Centre (EGADZ), as the Service Hospitality 2022 Safety Centered Leadership Award recipients.

A positive safety culture starts at the top. Don saw this need and built a leadership team around that key principle. Amanda’s desire to challenge the status quo resulted in extraordinary success at EGADZ and within the community.  Along with their leadership, EGADZ changed internal reporting processes, challenged lengthy claims, and coordinated training for many organizational leaders and staff, resulting in a discounted WCB premium rate and coordinated organizational corporate an all-time low number of workplace injuries.  The value they placed on safety is further highlighted by the investment made into the “Missing Youth Saskatchewan” app, aiming to improve safety broader than an organization for Saskatchewan youth. 

2021 SCLA Recipients

Brad S., Cheryl M., Delanie P., Dennica L., Joseph J., & Kayla C.
Training Program Contributors

Every year, Service Hospitality presents our highest honour to individuals who have taken a leadership role in demonstrating their commitment to safety within their organization, industry, or community.  For 2021, we have chosen to recognize the six individuals whose videos have been featured in our Psychological Health & Safety for Hospitality training programs, Brad S., Cheryl M., Delanie P., Dennica L., Joseph J., and Kayla C.

These individuals braved the cameras and told their powerful stories from a unique Saskatchewan hospitality-industry perspective.  These stories will help countless other people in the industry to prevent future psychological injuries from ever happening.  Their stories will continue to affect health and safety in every organization where this training is presented.  These real, relevant Saskatchewan experiences allow learners to better understand what could happen to themselves or others if psychological health and safety are not truly valued within their organizations.  Any other kind of video, media, or teaching could not replicate this impact on the learners.  Their stories have already started changing lives and will continue to change lives for years to come. 

Congratulations to all the award winners for receiving our prestigious 2021 Safety Centered Leadership Award. Thank you for being role models for true health and safety leadership in our province.

2020 SCLA Recipients

Ross Wickware
Safety in Schools Foundation of Canada

Our first award goes to Ross Wickware, Managing Director of the Safety in Schools Foundation of Canada! Since the beginning of our partnership in 2017, Safety in Schools has taken the lead in providing quality health and safety products at no cost to students across Saskatchewan. In 2021, Safety in Schools provided certifications to over 7,500 youth. However, Ross and his team aren’t just about delivering education but also about providing tangible reductions in injuries. From 2016 to 2020, we saw a 23% decrease in the total number of injuries among youth in our industries. There is no question that Safety in Schools was a key reason for this. Ross has been tireless in his pursuit and has exemplified the very best in health and safety leadership.

Ross has been tireless in his pursuit and has exemplified the very best in health and safety leadership. Wow. Way to go!

Ryan Urzada
The Atlas Hotel

Our second award goes to Ryan Urzada, Chief Experience Officer from The Atlas Hotel! The Atlas° Hotel took the lead in workplace health and safety even before the pandemic. They demonstrated this through low injury rates and the implementation of mental health best practices for their staff. The Atlas° Hotel achieved its HSLC Level 1 certification and remains enthusiastic and supportive of Youth Safety Education Day every year. During the pandemic, The Atlas° Hotel diligently protected its customers and staff’s health and safety and became the provincial leader in this area. They were both a practitioner and an advocate for best practices in health and safety protocols. Ryan states, “We don’t just want to be good at safety …we want to be the best!” Their actions continue to prove this.

We are proud to present this award to Ryan and his staff at The Atlas Hotel! Congrats!

2019 SCLA Recipient 

Michael Lavis
Creative Options Regina

This year we presented the Executive Director of Creative Options Regina, Mr. Michael Lavis, with Service Hospitality’s most prestigious award, the Safety Centered Leadership Award. Michael’s commitment to health and safety doesn’t arise from needing to meet legislated requirements – he truly believes a healthy and safe workplace is a productive and sustainable one. While the health and safety of his staff at Creative Options is a priority, he also demonstrates a passion for the safety of all workers in Saskatchewan.

Creative Options Regina, and Michael himself, are known for starting trends – not following them. He thinks outside the box and offers various resources to his staff to support their physical and mental health. An example is when Michael realized that although nutrition planning was provided through their employee benefits package, it was not being utilized by staff. So instead of waiting for staff to seek out nutritionist services, he brought the nutritionist to the office so the support was easily accessible to all employees.

Michael has also shown a passion for health and safety by…

  • Being a valued member of Service Hospitality’s Mental Health Best Practice Group, where he has led in the area of psychological health and safety in Saskatchewan community organizations.

  • Not being afraid to challenge big ideas and make insightful recommendations in front of the Health & Safety community. This shows he is not a complacent bystander but an active participator.

  • Has sat on the Service Hospitality board of directors for three years and advocates for what he believes in and what is right in the community and industry.

  • Being heavily involved with Youth Safety Education Day by sponsoring and attending YSED events and joining forces with Service Hospitality for Smile Cookie Day at Leboldus High School in 2019.

Michael is passionately committed to strengthening the disability services sector in Saskatchewan and forging new beginnings for the province’s most vulnerable citizens. He understands that the business of caring for people starts with the wellness of its own employees.

Thank you to Michael for being a leader, setting an example, and raising the bar for health and safety in our province and beyond its borders!

2018 SCLA Recipient 

Jim Bence
Hospitality Saskatchewan

This year we presented Hospitality Saskatchewan’s CEO, Mr. Jim Bencewith Service Hospitality’s most prestigious award, the Safety Centered Leadership Award. Jim’s accomplishments in health and safety are almost too numerous to mention. Here are a few you may be aware of: 

  • As Director of HR for the Travelodge, Jim led his organization to becoming the first employer in Saskatchewan history to be COR (Certificate of Recognition) certified by our association

  • Joined and served on the Service Hospitality board of directors for over 10 years

  • Served as CEO of Service Hospitality for over three years

  • Jim began and co-developed the youth education training program, which now reaches approximately 10,000 kids a year in over six school divisions across the province

  • Began and co-developed our “newcomers” introduction to safety, which is expected to reach almost 1,000 newcomers/immigrants this year alone

Jim has been a passionate advocate for health and safety in his own industry and virtually every industry across the province. Here are two you may not be aware of, but you should be:

  • Jim led and relentlessly pursued the lobbyist movement against the WCB, which resulted in almost $430 million dollars being returned to employers to invest in their staff, their businesses and health and safety

  • Started and, through sheer force of will, maintained Youth Safety Education Day. This event has grown from being merely a day proclaimed by the government for the first time in 2012 to an activity in which this year will have 200 participating organizations and approximately 40,000 kids participating.  Events like this and the youth initiative he started are the main reason kids in the hospitality and community services sector are reducing their injuries three times faster than any other demographic.

    Jim, THANK YOU for being the storm, the whirlwind and the earthquake we needed to make this province a little safer! Congratulations!

2017 SCLA Recipient 

Richard Donnelly
Regina Catholic School Division

Richard has spent his 33-year career in education with the RCSD, as both a teacher and an administrator.

In 2012, Richard helped to launch Youth Safety Education Day at the RCSD.  He has championed this initiative as a provincial and national steering committee member.  He has worked tirelessly over this time helping Service Hospitality pilot and then introduced a Grade 6 “safety at home” program, a Grade 8 “mental health” program and high school health and safety education programs.  He has worked with many organizations, including Safety in Schools, to pilot their program.

Since 2012, Richard’s contributions to youth health and safety in Regina have been too numerous to mention, but his outcomes are simply staggering.  Based on the most recent data, injuries among youth in Regina in the service and hospitality sectors have decreased three times faster than any other age demographic.

Richard has understood better than anyone that, in the end, this is all about stopping kids from getting hurt.

2016 SCLA Recipients

Andrea Brittin
Ranch Ehrlo Society 

Andrew Brittin has spent her entire career working in the field of child welfare. 

In 2014, Andrea joined Ranch Ehrlo Society as the President/CEO. Ranch Ehrlo Society is a non-profit organization dedicated to providing a range of quality assessments, treatment, education, support, and community services to improve the lives of children, youth, and families. Andrea oversees over 800 employees on three campuses throughout the province and in the cities of Regina and Prince Albert. Andrea signed the Mission Zero charter in 2016 and, since then, has led an enhanced focus on safety at Ranch Ehrlo Society.

Ranch Ehrlo has significantly reduced workplace injuries through its work with Service Hospitality.

Toby Desnomie
Saskatchewan First Nation’s Safety Association

Toby Desnomie is the founder and Chief Executive Officer of the Saskatchewan First Nations Safety Association. 

Toby founded the non-profit organization in February 2016 after 16 years in the Occupational Health & Safety field. Toby was inspired to create the association after noticing a void of information on safety and injury awareness directed toward First Nations workers.

The mission and vision are to develop public safety awareness campaigns as well as develop strategic plans to advance the safety awareness of communities in Saskatchewan’s First Nations.

2015 SCLA Recipients

Sharlene Duquette
Cosmopolitan Industries 

Sharlene started as the Executive Director of Cosmopolitan Industries in 2015. As a social enterprise, Cosmo features day programs for adults with intellectual disabilities that are focused on vocational activities that challenge peoples’ capabilities and build self-esteem. Sharlene exemplifies a safety-centered leadership approach. She allocated an entire day for her organization to focus just on safety training. That day all 150 employees attended four training sessions on emergent issues, organizational health and safety, and practice risks in health and safety.

In her short term to date as a leader, Sharlene has helped transform Cosmo into a leader in the development and delivery of programs for adults with intellectual disabilities, but also a leader in health and safety in the province.

Larry Bird
Service Hospitality Board Member

Larry Bird is Service Hospitality’s longest-serving board member, having joined shortly after the Association was formed in 1996. He would hold the position of Chair of the Board for 18 years, truly earning the title “The Chair of the Board.” During this time, Larry helped create an operational Board that directly managed staff while the association was figuring out what its membership’s health and safety needs were. As the Board transitioned to a governance board, the Chair was front and center in hiring all subsequent CEOs. In 2016, Service Hospitality, celebrating 20 years, also championed 3,000 injuries prevented. This, too, is part of Larry’s legacy.

During his time as owner and general manager of hotels, Larry developed a philosophy of health and safety and claims management, which ultimately formed the foundation of Service Hospitality’s service delivery.

2014 SCLA Recipients

Amy McNeil
SARC/SARCAN Recycling 

Amy McNeil has been with SARC/SARCAN Recycling since 2007, leading the organization along a safety-centered path at record speed. In 2012 she signed the Saskatchewan Health & Safety Leadership Charter. In 2014, SARC held its first annual Safety Symposium. The two-day event was the first of its kind in Saskatchewan and provided valuable safety information for all levels of workers and managers in community-based organizations.

SARC/SARCAN Recycling is a well-known organization in our community, and Amy McNeil has shown that the safety of every person in an organization is their top priority.

Natalie Szanker
Best Western Royal Hotel 

Natalie Szankar began working with Service Hospitality as General Manager of the Best Western Blairmore Hotel. We conducted their first evaluation in 2011, shortly after the hotel’s opening, and following those visits, Natalie signed the Saskatchewan Health & Safety Leadership Charter. Natalie has since changed locations, but her unwavering commitment to safety hasn’t. She has trained two new General Managers to continue in her safety-centered footsteps.

Natalie remains personally involved with the overall safety program at the Best Western Royal Hotel and holds every manager, supervisor and employee responsible for their own safety.

Murray Waters
Ramada Saskatoon 

For more than eight years, Murray Waters has been working with and supporting us to continually improve his safety-centered leadership culture at the Ramada Saskatoon. In 2011, he signed the Saskatchewan Health & Safety Leadership Charter. With a strong focus on preventing incident reoccurrence and an effective modified work program, Murray has managed to keep injury claims and related costs very low.

He believes in the power of an empowered Occupational Health and Safety Committee. He has utilized this resource very successfully by involving them in the development of procedures for the hotel.

Ian Wilkinson
Saskatchewan Abilities Council 

Ian Wilkinson took the first step to work with us in 2011, agreeing to have safety evaluations conducted in some of their larger locations. With management, led by Ian,
owning the changes and human resources offering support, every location positively affected attitudes toward safety. Since signing the Saskatchewan Health & Safety Leadership Charter in 2012, and starting to work with the Service Hospitality, the Council has managed to reduce injuries by almost 50% while continuing to grow.

Some of this improvement can be attributed to knowledge and training, but the majority comes from hard work, commitment, and Ian’s desire to incorporate safety into everything they do.

2014 SCLA Recipients

Maggie Choboter
Fortis Properties 

Maggie Choboter was an original founding board member of Service Hospitality. She has championed spreading the health and safety message within her workplace, her industry, and the entire service and hospitality sectors.

Her work with Delta in Regina and Fortis Properties as a whole has set the standard for health and safety leadership.

Bob Beekman
Canadian Linen & Uniform Services 

Bob Beekman exemplifies safety-centered leadership on a daily basis at Canadian Linen. His transformation has improved his individual firm experience rate by nearly 200 points in less than three years. Bob has been an invited speaker at the hotel’s best practice group for health and safety and has
been instrumental in setting up a commercial laundry’s best practice group.

He remains an advocate and champion for health and safety throughout the province.