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Meet your Safety Superheroes: Steven Cole, Animal Care Occupational Health Specialist & Biosafety Officer

Learn more about the Biosafety Officer at the University of Manitoba

June 28, 2019 — 

Similar to superheroes, the safety officers at the University of Manitoba also work to save the day!

Get to know the safety professionals in your Environmental Health and Safety (EHS) office. We’re spilling the “safe-tea” with these safety heroes to learn about their career path and the rewards and challenges of their role

Animal care extends beyond campus for Animal Care Occ Health Specialist/Biosafety Officer Steven Cole

Introducing Steven Cole, the Animal Care Occupational Health Specialist & Institutional Biosafety Officer in Environmental Health and Safety. You will encounter Steven if you are using biological agents or conducting live animal-based research. He’s responsible for the animal care risk assessments, developing and managing the biosafety program and assists in general laboratory safety programs.  

How did you come to this career/position?
It was a position I had not originally envisioned for myself.  I completed both my undergraduate and Masters degrees at the University of Manitoba in the department of Animal Science (Faculty of Agriculture) and worked in an agriculture biotechnology company. Working in a smaller private industry, I was involved in a wide variety of responsibilities from lab-bench work, to field work, to working trade shows. I was seeking more stability and prosperous options that eventually led to the UM. Originally, I was hired as the animal care occupational health specialist and then took on the role of institutional biosafety officer in 2009 when the previous biosafety officer retired. I have two jobs!

Name something rewarding and challenging in your position.
A rewarding part of my job has been to see the progression of our program. I was able to build an animal care program that meets compliance standards for our regulators as well as for biosafety, we [Vanessa Pinto and myself] have developed and transformed the biosafety program at the University of Manitoba to the point where our regulators use our work as a guiding program. It’s satisfying that we can show progress to improve our processes to make them more efficient for both our clients and us as safety specialists.
The challenging part of my position is handling the disengagement of our clients. It leads to them having an adversarial perception of us – that we’re interfering in their work- when the reality is their research would proceed at much slower pace if they were responsible for meeting all the safety regulations themselves. We don’t work to “hold up” research, our goal is to uphold research.

What might others be surprised to know about what you do?
People are often surprised how far my programs intersect and integrates with each other (animal care and biosafety) and other units at the University of Manitoba such as Office of Research Services, Architectural & Engineering Services and Physical Plant.

Superhero you most identify with and why:
I think I identify with super-villains more than superheroes! They’re often not well-liked but better educated.  Their delivery can come off as chaotic that it’s laughable, but there is a method to their madness. 

You can reach Steven at steven [dot] cole [at] umanitoba [dot] ca or at 204-789-3675

To find out more about Steven’s programs visit the Biosafety Program website

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