Safety Centered Leadership Awards

Every year, 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.

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 out of 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 of this is when Michael realized, 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 3 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 to forge out 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!

Jim Bence

This year we presented SHHA’s CEO, Mr. Jim Bence with 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 into 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 for 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 not only in his own industry but in virtually every industry across the province. Here are two you may not be aware of, but you should be:

  • Jim lead 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 in 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 which this year will have 200 participating organizations and approximately 40,000 kids participating in.  Events like this and the youth initiative he started are the main reason why kids in the hospitality and community services sector or 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!

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 member of both the provincial and national steering committees.  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, not least of which was 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.


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 assessment, 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.

Through their work with Service Hospitality, Ranch Ehrlo has significantly reduced their workplace injuries.

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 field of Occupational Health & Safety. Toby was inspired to create the association after noticing a void of information on safety and injury awareness directed towards 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.

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 the health and safety needs of its membership were. As the Board transitioned to a governance board, the Chair was front and center in the hiring of all subsequent CEOs. In 2016, Service Hospitality, in 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 to health and safety and claims management, which ultimately formed the foundation of Service Hospitality’s service delivery.

Amy McNeil
SARC/SARCAN Recycling 

Amy McNeil has been with SARC/SARCAN Recycling since 2007 and has led 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 and 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 was able to positively affect 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.


Maggie Choboter
Fortis Properties 

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

Her work with Delta in Regina, as well as 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. The transformation he has undertaken has improved his individual firm experience rate by nearly 200 points in just 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 laundries’ best practice group.

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



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