Faces in Mining: Cara Benoit
Occupational Health and Safety Hygienist, Diavik Diamond Mine
There are lots of moms working at mines around the North, but here’s a claim few can make – Cara Benoit gets to have breakfast once in a while with her sons, Garrett and Damon Benoit, who both work for site contractor Nuna Logistics on Diavik’s A21 kimberlite construction project.
Benoit, the Occupational Health and Safety Hygienist at Diavik and the Superintendent of Health in the mine’s Health, Safety and Environment Department, says she gives her sons the same motherly advice she gives all 1,187 workers at the mine:
“Pay attention to your supervisor, be safe and be alert!”
As superintendent, she directs two employees, a co-op student and all the site medics. “It’s fast, it’s busy…even when you’re working a 12-hour day the time just zooms by,” says Benoit, who graduated from the Occupational Health and Safety diploma program at Mount Royal College in Calgary. A job with an Edmonton health and safety consulting company moved her to Yellowknife in 2004, and after a term with the NWT Workers’ Safety and Compensation Commission, she hired on with Diavik in 2013.
Benoit says her team’s job is to protect workers from contaminants that can harm their health such as noise, dust, chemicals, underground radon gas and diesel contaminants. They measure occupational exposures, check on a job’s ergonomics, not just for sitting at a desk but also for haul truck drivers, and on a broader basis, check workers’ mental and physical readiness to do their jobs.
“Across the board in the workplace, we’re trying to influence the worker in terms of their own health,” she explains. “We do campaigns to challenge and encourage people to look at how they’re eating, how’re they’re sleeping… it even extends to cancer screening, quitting smoking, drug and alcohol awareness.”
Benoit says she is always alert to just how effective those messages are and where her own communications skills can really connect, especially with young workers. “The reality is that more people die from an occupational disease than from actual workplace accidents. I want to be diligent to get that worker or supervisor to understand what the hazard is.”
She’d like to see more people getting into the OHS field. “There’s not very many of us. The big thing is get a degree. It’s very hard for companies to fill these positions, especially smaller companies. It’s a fascinating industry that’s changing all the time.”