Presenting 'Women in Safety'

Published: 06/02/2015

I hate safety and you don’t need to be here

3 Feb 2015

“I hate safety and you don’t need to be here – so sit in the donga and leave us alone”. Welcome to the start of my HS&E career – middle of the jungle in PNG with a site manager who thought it should be spelt out early on how he felt about me being on his site. 

My name is Alanna Ball and this is my guest blog for Steel Heels.  I am the founder of Women in Safety – a network developed to support, educate, knowledge share and mentor professionals in the safety industry.

I have not always been a safety professional; I started my career in human resource management.  Studying organizational behaviour.  The textbooks told us that there is a ‘glass ceiling’, a concept that prevents women breaking through to the top of their field. It always bothered me how it was possible that a text-book could really ‘teach’ students that this concept existed, assumed it was just the ‘norm’, rather than provide the tools to overcome it.

I was not one of those people who wanted to perpetuate that notion and said to myself from a young age I wanted to work hard to get to the top of my field. I started my safety career in PNG and Fiji with an exploration drilling company. What a wake up from my pressed corporate suits, heels and makeup! I was thrown into the middle of the jungle with nothing but a manual and a mobile phone and expected to get our statistics in better shape! 

I was on a site where woman should not be in a position of power, nor tell a man how to do a task (safely)! I should tell you all that I am by no means a meek and mild individual and friends would describe me as quite loud and confident, however PNG had the potential to change that and could well have broken me. I was a woman, and although I didn’t know drilling, I knew safety and that communication was such an important part of keeping people safe.

How do you communicate when they don’t want to listen? Try, Try and Try again! I could not let ‘them’ win. Soon enough the same site manager who wanted me gone came around to my way of thinking – he learnt that safety didn’t have to be difficult and that it was in fact part of his day-to-day role. 

So why start Women in Safety?  I had a desire for all women to know that through communication we could make a change, we could break those ceilings and get better results.  Something had to give, so through conversations with some very supportive ladies, Women in Safety was underway. An ever-changing, ever building network which I believe has the potential to achieve great things and crack that glass ceiling for all women to achieve greatness in the safety realm.

Through conversations, mentoring, coaching and knowledge sharing we can make a change to a career that can be challenging at the best of times. I ask you all to share your stories, your passions, your challenges and barriers because I very much doubt you are the first to go through it! ” 

Obviously Alanna (and hopefully industry mindsets) have come a long way since her first days in PNG. It’s fabulous to see women like Alanna not only trailblazing but also sharing and creating a network to help those who might follow via ‘Women in Safety’. Keep up the great work Alanna; we know you are inspiring many women. If you would like to further follow Alanna’s journey, we encourage you to connect with ‘Women in Safety’ via LinkedIn or Twitter.