Calgary Chapter

About Calgary Chapter


The history of the Calgary Chapter is so closely related to the early history of the safety movement in Alberta that they are practically synonymous. In 1929, Mr. E.E. Owen joined the staff of the Workmen’s Compensation Board of Alberta, and in so doing became the first known professional safety officer in the Province.

The safety of workers at that time was merely in the embryo stage, and although Compensation Boards had been formed in most Canadian Provinces for about ten years, it was not until 1952 that the last of the provinces (New Brunswick) formed such a Board, not for the safety of workmen, but rather to take care of the injured through medical and hospital means and financial help to his family.

Mr. Owen campaigned alone for the safety of workmen from 1929 to 1945, sixteen years. In 1945 Mr. A.S. Leitch of the Board’s Claims Department was transferred to the Safety Department. Then, one year later, Mr. R.C. Henderson joined the Accident Prevention Board’s staff, bringing the number of full-time W.C.B. Safety Officers to three.

During the sixteen years that Mr. E. Owen pioneered safety in Alberta he became a well-known Provincial figure. He realized the limitations of a one-man effort and persistently informed Industrial Management that the responsibility for safety of the workers rested on their shoulders and that the only way to attack the problem was to appoint someone from within their own ranks and have him trained in the “Arts and Sciences” of Accident Prevention.

As a result of Owen’s campaigning, the Corporation of the City of Calgary appointed its first Safety Officer, Mr. George R. Austin. This was the year 1947 and in the same year Ron Henderson was transferred from Edmonton to Calgary to bring the safety message firsthand to Southern Alberta’s industry and commerce.

In the mid 1940’s education in accident prevention in industry was confined to a few centers, mostly located in the United States. Industry was on the increase in Alberta and with this was the attendant rapid rise in the hours of exposure to accidents. Hand in hand with the new types of industry came unknown hazards, thus creating a need for industrial accident prevention programs, education in guarding, protective equipment and safe work methods.

Ron Henderson devoted many hours of his time in promoting safety win a view to reaching industry and the public. This was accomplished through evening meetings sponsored by the W.C.B. in Calgary and other southern Alberta centers. With his enthusiasm and dedication to his chosen profession, it was not long before he found a number of Calgarians as interested in workmen’s safety as he was.

Calgary was in its growing stage and only the few larger and more prominent companies had safety personnel engaged on a full-time basis. However, there was a growing number of companies with part-time safety personnel and others who handled the safety function in addition to their regular jobs with their companies. It was with the knowledge of this nucleus of people that prompted Ron Henderson to discuss the possibility of forming an organization.

They began holding meetings in 1948 during Saturday morning coffee breaks (during the days of the six-day work week) in the Grand Coffee Shop, next to the Lougheed Building at 6th Avenue and 1st Street S.W., which housed the W.C.B. Those attending these initial meetings include: George Austin of the City of Calgary, Dave Stan Haggarty, Harvey Whitworth – Manager of M.S.A. and Ron Henderson and Stan Walker of the W.C.B. They were joined at subsequent meeting over the next year by such people as George Litterick of Imperial Oil, Gordon Sands of the W.C.B., Bob Wright and Lyle Blenner-Hassett of the B.A. Refinery, Fred Cameron and Don Hinman of Royalite Oil, Doctor Bruce Stewart-Murray of Mannix, Pat Williams of Greyhound, Bert Silver of the City Fire Department, Ole Nevea of Home Oil, Archie Langelle of Imperial Oil.

As their numbers grew is became necessary to find other free meeting places, such as the Gas Company maintenance shop, Victoria Park (Stampede Grounds) Agriculture Building, The National Film Board’s offices, in the old Post Office Building on the corner of 6th Avenue and 1st Street east, The Calgary Power building, Junior Chamber of Commerce, Harris Sky Room, Empress Grill, and Club Café.

At these sessions there was a free exchange of ideas, recital of safety problems with advice from those present, information regarding hazards in various types of industry. At this time there were only two safety manuals in the City. One with Dave Haggarty, “Henrick’s Book on Industrial Accident Prevention”, and the other, “The National Safety Council’s Manual on Accident Prevention.” The few safetymen in Calgary made use of these two manuals for a great deal of information and for their own education.

Members of the group gave numerous safety talks to industrial workers and even carried the message to employers. Practical demonstrations were put on at workers’ meetings, demonstrating the use of safety equipment and practice of using safe methods at the point of operations. Hector Ingram was an expert on petroleum fires and methods of fighting them. Harvey Whitworth excelled in the use of guards and was the most knowledgeable man in Alberta and British Columbia on lethal gases and protection against them. His expertise in this area was available to industry at all times. Safety management courses were also conducted for the general membership and for the public at large. Lyle Blenner-Hassett taught J.I.T., Bert Silver J.R.T. and Hector Ingram J.S.T. The group proudly point to their record in starting the protective and educational programs to combat the deadly H2S Gas in the petroleum industry.

This dedicated group of men deplored the inaction of industry concerning the safety of their workers and decided that some outside body would have to initiate a “safety movement”.

In December of 1949 George Austin, Safety Supervisor for the City of Calgary, sent a letter to twelve people known to be interested in the formation of an association of safety personnel in Calgary, inviting them to a meeting to discuss the proposal of forming such an organization. It was to be held at the National Film Board’s screening room in the Public Building on January 10th, 1950 at 8:00 p.m. At that meeting was born what was to be known, until April 6th, 1953 as the Alberta Safety Personnel Association.

George Austin was the first President of this organization, Dr. Bruce Stewart-Murray (Mannix Company) the Vice-President, and Stan R. Walker (W.C.B.) the Secretary-Treasurer. Due to business commitments George Austin and Stan Walker could not attend regular organization meeting during this initial formative period. therefore tendered their resignations. Gorge Austin resigned in January 1950, and Stan Walker resigned in September 1950. Dr. Bruce Stewart-Murray then became President and George Litterick (W.C.B.) Secretary-Treasurer for the remainder of the year. George Austin, at that time Safety Supervisor with Shell Oil, reassumed the presidency in 1951. However, as Stan Walker had been transferred to Edmonton, George Litterick continued on as Secretary-Treasurer for the remainder of 1951.

The group offered their services in the field of Industrial Safety as guest speakers, to demonstrate safety equipment and as consultants to management. They offered their assistance in forming safety committees, training committees on proper inspection procedures and as a source of safety information to everyone at large. Most of these efforts were conducted on their own time and at no cost to the recipients.

As of 1952 Gordon Sands was the Calgary Chapter’s Custodian and contributor of many of the safety training visual aid equipment and conference material, which included taped talks on numerous safety topics, accident slides, cameras, screens, lectern, etc. This equipment was available for use by members and was invaluable to them in their in-company and public presentations.

Membership certificates were issued to the twelve founding members, dated August 1950, and signed by Dr. Bruce Stewart-Murray and Stan R. Walker.

The membership grew slowly, but in 1952 its influence was being felt and was decided to take two big steps. First, to apply to the American Society of Safety Engineers for affiliation with them to give the A.S.P.A. status standing, and second, to apply for incorporation under the Societies Act. By this time the organization had about 25 members, who included several of the local industrial nurses, and for the record, is should be stated that they contributed much to the initial success of the organization. We would be remiss not to mention the name of Mona Sparrow and Rita Gates at this point.

Through the efforts of Mr. Bob Wright (who was then the Safety Officer for the British American Oil Refinery), the A.S.P.A. had corresponded with the A.S.S.E. and had received encouraging indications that they would be accepted as an affiliate with all rights and privileges on the condition that they accept their constitution as their own. Unfortunately, their constitution prohibited the membership of industrial nurses and, because the A.S.P.A. felt the nursed played a big part in accident prevention, they could not accept this ultimatum. The offer of the A.S.S.E. thus was not accepted and the group struck out alone as a truly Canadian organization. However, they did adopt the A.S.S.E. constitution as their own, but with the necessary changes permitting membership into our organization of the industrial nurses.

The newly adopted constitution was sent to the Registrar of Companies, Government of the Province of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta, on March 26th, 1953 with the request that A.S.P.A. be incorporated under the Societies Act. As the first two words of the Association name conflicted with other incorporations presently on the register, they were requested to make a name change. As a consequence the Alberta Association of Safety Personnel emerged. The A.A.S.P. and constitution was officially incorporated on April 7th, 1953. Signing for the Association on that day were: A.W. Silver (Safety Supervisor, City of Calgary), Gordon Sands (Safety Inspector, W.C.B.), Calgary, J.A.McCloskie (Secretary, Safety Division of Kraft Foods Ltd.), Calgary. Witness was M. Clements (Factory Inspector, Department of Industry and Labour), Calgary.

The membership grew and the A.A.S.P. prospered. Further meetings were held at the Royal Hotel (8th. Ave. and 2nd. St. S.W.) and at this time the Nursing Association was invited into membership and did have representation in the Association. This proved a great help to the Association, especially whenever a panel discussion was on the meeting agenda.

The suppliers of safety equipment were invited to become associate members. They, too, proved invaluable in demonstrating various safety equipment and in training the membership in the use of such equipment.

At every meeting (and this was very important to members) the agenda included time for “questions” and “problems”. A member having a problem, such as respiratory equipment training, eye protection, industrial safety program, etc. would bring this to the attention of those present and would invariably get satisfaction from having his problem resolved.

Those who served in various official offices of the Association over the years had done so in a very capable manner, which no doubt, is the secret of the success of the A.A.S.P.

Later in 1953 it was decided that members should have something tangible to proclaim their association with the Organization. The issuing of 14” x 10” certificates was initiated. These were suitable for framing and are prized possessions of the recipients. The wording on the first issue reads as follows:

“This is to certify that ______________ is an active member of this Association, organized to promote Safety and disseminate knowledge to the end that workmen shall live to enjoy the fruits of his labours, this his mother shall have the comfort of his arm in her age, that his wife shall not be untimely a widow, that his children shall have a father that cripples who were one strong men shall no longer be a by-product of industry.”

The wording has been changed from time to time, both at the Chapter and Provincial Executive Levels, but it is doubtful whether any improvement was accomplished.

Because of the cost of these certificates, it was decided in 1955 to issue date stickers, but by 1963 this system got out of hand due principally to the annual change of officers and the increasing membership and subsequently was abandoned.

In 1954 R. C. Henderson returned to Edmonton to take over the post of Safety Director upon the retirement of E. E. Owen. In the same year Ron Henderson, E.E. Owen, A.S. Leitch of the W.C.B. in Edmonton and H.D. Davidson, Safety Supervisor, City of Edmonton founded the Edmonton Chapter of A.A.S.P.

In 1958 the President and Secretary of the Calgary Chapter brought all members certificates up-to-date. They also published a list of Founding Members, and Charter Members. The Provincial Executive issued the Founding and Charter Member certificates.

During the later part of the 1960’s three new Association chapters were formed, Lethbridge, Medicine Hat and Red Deer. However, the Red Deer Chapter ceased functioning in 1968 and the Lethbridge Chapter in 1970, both due to insufficient safety people in those towns to support a Chapter. The Lethbridge Chapter was reactivated in the spring of 1978 and is now a viable group once again holding regular monthly meetings.

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