Health and Safety
Shawn Nanaquewitang is from Fishing Lake First Nation in Saskatchewan, and he was born and raised by a single mother in Calgary, Alberta. Shawn has an extensive background in construction, mainly as an Ironworker. After years of heavy lifting and repetitive work Shawn was diagnosed with bulging disks and spurs in his lower lumbar which required surgery to repair. After being told by his Surgeon that he could no longer continue in his trade, his Union, Ironworkers Union Local 725, stepped in and offered to retrain him as a National Construction Safety Officer. Shawn is very passionate about safety, and while working out of town in Exshaw, Alberta, he continued his safety education by way of online OH&S certification through the University of New Brunswick. He had an idea to start a safety business through the hall, and the Union hall thought it was a great idea, he then got his business name registered, created a website and had cards and pens made up for advertising.
Shawn describes that entering the LD-ACE Program was his first attempt at being an entrepreneur. Shawn’s experience in construction includes over twenty years as a reinforcing ironworker, and over 4500 hours as a safety officer where he has developed the necessary skills to work in residential, commercial, and industrial projects. That experience now helps him in identifying physical hazards on the jobsite as well as hazards to watch out for that are not so obvious. In his job as a safety officer, he was unable to spend time with his family as often as he would like because most of his jobs were camp jobs or out of town. In his last job Shawn “was away for 10 months, working 6 days on and 1 day off. I come home for long weekends and major holidays.” However, Shawn is taking steps to own and operate his own business, sharing his safety expertise to make an impact in the lives of construction community members whose safety is at risk on the job.
With expertise in analyzing risk assessment and safety procedures in construction environments, Shawn spotted a need in communities that he is working to respond to through his business, Iron Eagle Safety. Shawn describes that “due diligence is of up most importance” as “every action [workers] do on site should have some sort of paper trail, everything must be documented, [and] everything in industrial and commercial construction now has legal documents that are designed to protect the workers and the business owners from legal ramifications.” Shawn notes, “if you’re not following your Job Hazard Analysis and are not filling out your field level risk assessment to every detail for your days work schedule, and a serious incident happens where someone is badly hurt or killed, supervisors and company owners can be held criminally responsible and face jail time. Safety must be taken seriously too; many families, friends and co-workers lives are forever changed when something bad happens. I would really like to help out aboriginal companies and help to teach young workers about the importance of safety, to help make them better workers by being productive while doing their jobs safely.
Shawn’s objective with Iron Eagle Safety is to intervene before an incident occurs, to ensure that organizations and employees at construction sites are aware of the risks present and are taking the steps to respond to these risks. Through Iron Eagle Safety, Shawn is going to “provide construction companies with safety advisors with actual hands-on trades experience…to review the company safety program, look at policies and procedures, be in the field, check out how they’re working and if employees are actually following it.” Further, Shawn wants to ensure that all workers in construction “know their right to work in a safe environment, and that they cannot be fired from doing a job they feel unsafe doing,” while also understanding their roles and “responsibilities as well as their due diligence.”
Before beginning the ACE Program, Shawn thought his idea for Iron Eagle Safety was a great idea, and wanted to learn more about how to start his business. Shawn heard about the ACE Program after a friend shared it with him over Facebook. Shawn applied to the program and was accepted, and describes that “with what [he’s] learning right now, it is exactly where [he] want[s] to be.” Shawn also explains “it’s a great, great way to introduce me to the realities of actually running a business.”
Shawn explains that through the ACE Program, he has combined his expertise as a safety professional with lessons in creating business plans, powerpoints, marketing and the entire “strategies that come with trying to start the business.” Shawn’s favourite part of the ACE Program was working with ACE Program instructor, Michaela Tokarski, MBA, entrepreneur and investor, who provided “insight into marketing through the Internet, and…helped us set up a webpage.” Shawn also noted the additional support provided by all the professors in which students could contact for further support.
Going forward, Shawn explains that his first step is obtaining his business license, which he is well underway with. Additionally, Shawn plans to use the skills he has developed in Internet Marketing to prepare for launching Iron Eagle Safety in which he is looking to find contracts for. Moreover, Shawn notes that by next year, he aims to have “an employee or two, and after that, double that” number and continue to grow from there, sharing his expertise in safety with others who are passionate about protecting people, property and the environment.
Shawn has advice for prospective entrepreneurs considering applying to the ACE Program. “There’s a lot of information in a very short time,” in the ACE program, and “if I could give you any advice, it would be: don’t miss any days.” Moreover, Shawn explains that by being committed to the entrepreneurial process, “if you prepare and do everything they ask, there’s a pretty good chance you’ll learn enough to get the business going and learn the realities of running a business.”
We at ACE are grateful to have the opportunity to work with Shawn and learn from his experience and vision for the community. We look forward to seeing the impact that Iron Eagle Safety has in the lives of construction professionals going forward.
Shawn Nanaquewitang is a graduate of the award winning Aboriginal Canadian Entrepreneurs Program, which focuses on bridging Aboriginal culture with the key elements of entrepreneurship and business creation. The ACE program made possible through the collective efforts of our partnering regions, communities, institutions, and faculties.