It is because of her wiliness to go above and beyond to keep faculty, staff and students safe, Kyla Denton has been named the University of Saskatchewan Safety Recognition Award winner for 2022.
Denton, who is the Administrative Coordinator for the Mathematics and Statistics department in the College of Arts and Science, has a history of spearheading positive safety initiatives in her department and the building she works in, McLean Hall.
“Long ago, before working at USask, I was injured in a workplace accident which taught me the importance of workplace safety in your day-to-day environment,” said Denton. “Safety issues that may seem minor can cause long-term problems or worse when ignored.”
Some of the safety initiatives Denton has implemented include putting up no smoking signs around entrance ways and air intakes to ensure clean air in McLean Hall, ensuring office safety by making sure dangerous non-certified space heaters were removed, moving bike racks to more visible and safe spaces and creating different channels of communications to keep people informed of safety.
Denton has also been an advocate for mental health and has used her training, which includes safeTALK Suicide Alertness workshop, to establish and nurture a safe space within her department.
“What started me to focus on creating a safe mental health space was my understanding of what it feels like to struggle to find mental health support,” Denton said. “When I needed help, I often received negative responses due to the social stigma present, which caused me distress and hesitation in reaching out for help.
"Moving away from the mental health social stigma will take time and effort, and an essential step is to create a safe place for conversation. Often, those who come by my office in need are either unsure of who to talk to or afraid to reach out for formal mental health support. By creating a safe space for community members, I can act as a bridge to help those in need get help.”
Denton, who serves as the safety rep on the Arts and Science safety committee, works proactively to keep those around her safe, regularly reminding building users to ask questions rather than to take risks or to just assume that they know what is safe or not. She has established herself as a knowledge base of health and safety practices and policies for the department and building and puts people at ease when they ask questions about these issues.
“Many people do not think about safety issues or make incorrect assumptions about what is considered safe,” said Denton. “Communicating information about safety causes people to be aware of a safety concern that may have been overlooked or ignored due to incorrect assumptions. If this knowledge lowers the chances of an incident, it is worth the effort.”
Through her efforts, she has created a safety-first culture and reduced harm to building users over time. She was also instrumental at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, leading the shutdown of McLean Hall as well as coordinating the return-to-work process, ensuring people felt safe and comfortable returning to campus.
For Denton, being nominated by her co-workers made winning the award more special.
“I felt appreciated for my efforts to keep my buildings occupants represented and safe.”
Other members of the USask community who were nominated for the award were:
- Rhonda Oliver, Clinic Manager, Northern Medical Services Division
- Debbie Croteau, Financial, Administrative, and Operations Assistant, College of Arts and Science, Department of Archaeology and Anthropology
- Roger Moskaluke, Facility Manager, Colleg of Kinesiology
- Shannon Berko, Laboratory Administrator, College of Medicine