May 8, 2023

Women are breaking down occupational safety barriers and improving workplace standards

UCalgary’s Denise Howitt named one of Canada’s Top Women in Safety for 2023
Denise Howitt

A senior manager has received a national honour for her efforts in helping make the University of Calgary a safe place to study and work. 

Denise Howitt has been recognized by Canadian Occupational Safety (COS) as one of the Top Women in Safety in Canada for 2023.  

“Receiving the award is a tremendous honour, particularly among such an exceptional group of women who are pushing boundaries and driving change in the field,” says Howitt, senior manager of environment health and safety systems and compliance. 

With more than 25 years of experience in the field, Howitt’s primary focus on occupational health and safety management systems, legislative compliance, risk assessment, and injury prevention has made a significant impact on UCalgary.  

She has successfully spearheaded a diverse range of projects and initiatives aimed at significantly improving safety on campus since joining the university in 2017. Addressing challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, she has played a key leadership role in establishing requirements for returning to campus and developing comprehensive programs and plans to ensure a safe and healthy living and learning environment for students, faculty, and staff. The nomination is a testament to her dedication and commitment to her role. 

“I am privileged to have worked alongside extraordinary colleagues and mentors who have inspired and guided me throughout my career,” Howitt says. “Their unwavering support and encouragement have played a pivotal role in shaping my leadership style and strengthening my passion for safety.”  

Aside from honouring excellence, the Top Women in Safety in Canada rankings also recognize the significant strides made by women in breaking down barriers and stereotypes in what has been traditionally seen as a male-dominated industry.  

This year’s winners have made tremendous contributions to the occupational safety field with unique perspectives and approaches that have been instrumental in improving safety standards in various industries.  

“As a co-founder and executive board member of the Women in Occupational Health and Safety Society, I am proud to be part of a community that advocates for gender diversity in the workplace and supports women in this profession,” says Howitt. 

Although there is still progress to be made in terms of gender equality in the workplace, she says, women in the occupational safety field are paving the way for future generations of female safety professionals.  

“This recognition is not just for me, but for all the incredible women who work tirelessly to create a safer and more equitable future for all,” says Howitt. “I am grateful for this acknowledgement and excited to continue working towards a world where everyone can thrive in a safe and healthy environment.” 

Success at UCalgary 

Howitt's outstanding contributions are an example of why UCalgary is consistently recognized as a top employer. At UCalgary, people are the greatest asset, and the university is committed to providing a supportive and inclusive workplace where everyone can thrive. 

"We are lucky to have Denise on the team,” says Mike Leaist, director of environment health and safety. “The university benefits from her expertise, energy and initiative. Congratulations, Denise, on this well-deserved recognition!” 

How Canadian Occupational Safety found Canada’s Top Women in Safety 

In compiling its 2023 list the Top Women in Safety in Canada, COS prompted occupational health and safety professionals by email and through their website to nominate women in the Canadian health and safety sector. COS received hundreds of nominations across the country, including self-nominations.  

Nominators were asked to highlight professional accomplishments, initiatives, and evidence of contribution to diversity and inclusion. Details on why the nominee should be considered were included and thoroughly vetted to ensure they met the rigorous criteria.  

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