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Meet your Safety Superheroes: Vanessa Pinto, Biological Safety Specialist

August 1, 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.


Vanessa Pinto, Biosafety Specialist and Communications Officer in EHS.

Introducing Vanessa Pinto, the Biological Safety Specialist. Vanessa wears two hats in EHS: she works with Steven Cole in the biosafety program and is responsible for the EHS communications portfolio. She’s also assists with the chemical safety program, online training and general lab safety. 

How did you come to this career/position?

I have both my undergraduate and Masters degrees in molecular biology and was fortunate enough to work in a lab at the University of Toronto where I developed my project management, program design and communication skills. When the biosafety specialist position came up it was a great opportunity to use both my program development and science background.  It’s been interesting to approach research from a safety perspective!

Name something rewarding and challenging in your position.

I find the program development to be rewarding as we’re are able to measure progress and implement strategic initiatives. In particular, being able to increase engagement through our communications portfolio that it’s been recognized (and in some instances replicated!) – it’s been great to utilize other avenues to get our message across.

The most challenging part is having to contend with a negative perception of what we do. Even as a graduate student, when we knew safety officers were on the floor, the students would leave. Now being on the other side, it makes our job harder to contend with misconceptions and being viewed as a hindrance or the “bad guy”.

What might others be surprised to know about what you do?

My job requires a fair amount of problem-solving and foresight. The motto of “be kind to your future self” has proven valuable in program design as we’ve been faced with changes in resources, a lot of which were unexpected. By thinking creatively, increasing efficiencies, collaborating and finding new resources, we have still been able to achieve our program’s major deliverables despite these changes. 

Superhero you most identify with and why:  

I’ve been a lifelong fan of Superman for many reasons but as a safety officer, I identify with how it’s the information he collects as Clark Kent that makes him even more powerful when he turns up as Superman. People don’t tend to notice or heed to Clark Kent but you definitely want Superman around when there’s trouble.     

You can reach Vanessa at vanessa [dot] pinto [at] umanitoba [dot] ca or at 204-789-3477 and follow us on Twitter @UM_EHS and Instagram umanitoba_ehs


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