The Safety Lady – Bringing children on site

Nicola Bradshaw, children's book author, holds a copy of her book, The Safety Lady.

Sometimes on the way to your dream you get lost and find a better one

Lisa Hammond

by Faye Bayko

Nicola Bradshaw, 30, had not intended to work in construction or to become a children’s book author when she left Ireland for Canada five years ago. She had trained as a health care aide and had planned on pursuing a career in the field once she arrived in Vancouver. That plan, however, did not work out. Upon arrival, she was informed that her certificate did not meet Canadian standards and she would have to take further training, with a $500 price tag, if she planned on working in the city. With finances already stretched by the international move, paying to relearn what she already knew was not an option.

It was after her partner, who had traveled with her from Ireland, had found a job in construction that she considered another option. The company was in need of a safety officer. The position would make use of the skills she already had as well as provide her with the opportunity to explore a career she had not considered before.

“So, I ended up in construction and the hours are obviously amazing. Monday to Friday. I have my weekends.” She laughed. “And I don’t have to work nights.”

The work is still challenging and carries a great deal of responsibility. “Depending on the site, the first thing I’d do in the morning is look for syringes, just to keep the guys safe.” The reality of working construction in a major city means there can be sites located in neighbourhoods that have issues with street drug use. So a walk-through with a sharps bucket has become routine.

“Then I do a head count. Obviously, since COVID I have to take it a step further and make sure I get all their names and everything.” She shrugged. “There’s no short summary of what I do.” Her day, she said, is filled with site inspections which involve making sure the workers have the proper protective gear for the job they’re doing and that they have access to electrical or mechanical rooms when needed. Site security is also part of it. “I make sure nobody is on site that doesn’t need to be there.”

Bradshaw’s journey to becoming an author had a similar twist to that of her journey to becoming a safety officer. She started out by taking advantage of a transition year, an option in the Irish school system, which allows students to pursue a year of exam-free learning in a subject of interest. The option is offered between a student’s three-year junior cycle and two-year senior cycle (high school). Bradshaw chose photography. The course was taught by a favourite teacher who had also taught her English.

She continued to develop both skills and has combined them in her first children’s book. The Safety Lady offers a look into Bradshaw’s life as a safety officer in Vancouver with easy-to-read text aimed at the primary school reader.

“I had hoped that young readers would, I suppose, firstly understand another role in construction,” she said.

By showing them how she looks for and deals with hazards on a construction site, she hopes children might learn how to do the same in their own environment. “So, that’s why it could make a great book to read with a parent or guardian. It can become a conversation.”

She has filtered her photographs to give them the illustrative quality suitable for a children’s book. All were taken at her Vancouver work sites and show hazards and solutions.

Her second book, The Safety Lady gets a puppy, will introduce Wyn, Bradshaw’s Collie-Australian Kelpie cross, who often accompanies her to work. Bradshaw is working to save the money needed for publishing it.

Published in February The Safety Lady is available online through Friesen Press, Amazon Kindle Store, Google Play, and iTunes Bookstore. It is also available through the author at ($10 softcover, $20 hardcover).

About Author

Faye Bayko
I am a writer and photographer currently working out of Port Alberni, BC.