A Health and Safety Manager plays a critical role within a company by ensuring the well-being and security of its employees. From conducting risk assessments, providing safety training, and ensuring compliance with relevant regulations, their primary responsibility is to prevent accidents and injuries in the workplace.
That's what Nick Despoja does at ARSGEM. Further, he is diligently pushing us to be at the forefront of occupational safety. "Making sure everyone goes home safely and comfortably each and every night is my top priority."
First Part: At ARSGEM
Briefly introduce yourself:
My name is Nick Despoja and I work as the Health and Safety Manager since November 2023. My broad responsibilities include ensuring compliance with regulatory bodies and standards, conducting audits and reviews of existing health and safety policies, advising employees on safety procedures, managing certifications, and addressing incidents and injuries. In short, I do all I can do to minimize any injury exposures as much as possible.
What are some integral parts of your role that people might not know about?
It is all about having genuine and effective ongoing interactions with every part of the organization. From the newly hired to highly seasoned veterans, it is vital for me to interact with every part of the organization. While some may mistakenly perceive the Health and Safety industry as primarily concerned with enforcing regulations and paperwork, the focus of the matter is fundamentally about helping and supporting others. Having and practicing excellent people skills is therefore a must. It's crucial to understand how to connect with individuals possessing varying communication styles in order to successfully fulfill this job.
What are your favourite parts of your role and why?
I like having constant interaction with every individual within the company. Besides people working in the office, I also do a lot of field visits to ensure compliance. I learned that how I approach people from different interests, needs, and backgrounds is essential to creating a safe environment where people know they are protected and can work with confidence.
Second Part: Your Philosophy
If you could attend any event, past or future, what event would you choose, and why?
I would love to have witnessed my parents as children growing up in Croatia. I am the first generation Canadian in my family. In Croatia, my parents faced considerable challenges and lived through difficult circumstances. Nonetheless, my parents resiliently overcame challenges and did a wonderful job raising me. A glimpse into their younger lives would be such a valuable insight into understanding better what they had to go through at a young age.
What's a piece of advice you've received that has had a profound impact on your life or career?
When I transitioned from my role as an IT project manager to embark on a career in Health and Safety, I encountered a senior supervisor in the field who posed a critical question. He asked what the primary focus of my new job should be. I tried to come up with answers that would satisfy him, but I could see the look of disappointment in his eyes. After allowing me to elaborate for a while, he interrupted me abruptly with a concise, impactful statement: "There is only one thing. It is to ensure everyone gets home each and every night safely." This significantly impacted my vision and philosophy. Everyone can and should go home safely and making that happen every day is my top priority at all times.
What's a personal challenge you've set for yourself in the next year?
Maintaining the Certification of Recognition (Commonly known as COR) endorsed by the Infrastructure Health and Safety Association (IHSA). This certification stands as a nationally accredited mark of distinction and a gold standard for safety. It was a collective team effort, and I am proud that I was able to facilitate getting our company COR certified since my arrival. Nevertheless, maintaining this esteemed status requires unwavering dedication and top-tier efforts. My objective is for ARSGEM to continue upholding this prestigious certification.
How about, who was your favourite teacher in school, and what makes them so memorable?
Among the many teachers I encountered during my school days, one of my fondest memories is of Mr. Maharaj, who taught Business Administration in the ninth grade. Mr. Maharaj was truly one-of-a-kind. His exceptional sense of humour and his ability to establish deeply personal connections with each student set him apart. He was so deeply invested in his own students that he spent intentional efforts to learn each one of them to connect them in an authentic, heartfelt way. All of his students, including myself, knew that we were genuinely cared for. I was just in ninth grade, yet Mr. Maharaj's influence had a profound impact on my life, imparting a valuable lesson on building connections and effectively collaborating with others.
What was your first job and what do you remember most about it?
My first job was in the Paint and Plumbing department at a Canadian Tire store. At the outset, I had no previous knowledge or experience. I frequently had to seek help from my coworkers or supervisors when customers had questions. It felt quite awkward, but I persisted. After a few months, I could confidently provide detailed explanations to customers and even mix paint with ease. The valuable lesson I learned was that consistency is key: Every start may feel uncomfortable. By consistently showing up and making an effort to get better each and every day, however, things gradually will fall into place.
Third Part: More About You
All-time favourite movie? Why?
I enjoy Silver Screen Classics, particularly comedies. My first pick is 'It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (1963)' featuring a star-studded cast including Spencer Tracy, Milton Berle, and Sid Caesar. During its time, this film brought together some of the finest comedians. In a nutshell, the plot revolves around a desperate group of strangers chasing a suitcase filled with stolen money across the United States. I should warn you though that this movie is long, filling 3 hours and 22 minutes! What makes it even more interesting is that much like a live performance, the film includes an intermission, allowing the audience to take a brief break before continuing with the story.
Your favourite singer(s)?
Anything Crooner. Frank Sinatra is my all-time favourite.
What's your favourite type of cuisine or dish?
Indian. Brampton was my home during my early years, where I had the privilege of learning the secrets of crafting exquisite Indian dishes from my Indian friends and neighbours. I take pride in my ability to make a great Chicken Tikka Masala from scratch. When people taste it, their initial assumption is often that it's store-bought, because it is that good.
What's your favourite type of exercise or physical activity?
Now in my fifties, I've discovered that swimming provides both relaxation and a gentle workout for my joints. During the winter, I frequent a local community pool, but my absolute favourite is taking a dip in Lake Simcoe, with a touch of snorkeling. It is refreshing and rejuvenating at the same time.
Your go-to music/playlist when you need to be relaxed or inspired?
If you could live anywhere (whether realistic or fictitious), where is it?
Costa Rica. I prefer warmer destinations and Costa Rica's beauty instantly captivated my heart when I visited there.