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There’s a new safety sheriff at Algoma Steel

Announcement comes as the steelmaker is under increased scrutiny of its safety and environmental record
Erin Oliver

Yet another woman has smashed Algoma Steel's glass ceiling.

The company has announced former Saultite Erin Oliver is appointed to the newly created role of vice president – health and safety.

Oliver will report to chief executive officer Michael Garcia and will be part of the steelmaker's senior leadership team.

Her job will be high-profile and tough.

News of Oliver's appointment comes as Algoma has recently come under increased scrutiny of its safety and environmental record.

In January, a massive collapse of utility piping occurred at Algoma's coke-making facilities, with repair costs estimated at up to $30 million.

In February, five employees were sent to hospital after a terrifying explosion at the north casthouse of Algoma's blast furnace complex.

In April, one Algoma Steel worker was injured when heavy rains came into contact with molten slag, causing a boom heard as far away as Heyden and Hilton Beach.

Last month, SooToday's Kenneth Armstrong revealed the steelmaker was facing three charges in connection with the death last year of 21-year-old Damien Bryant, a contract worker.

Since then, local activist Selva Rasaiah has been uncovering evidence about problems with chemical spills from Algoma operations.

But there's a new safety sheriff now at the steel mill.

Erin Oliver is past chairperson of the Prevention Council of Ontario, the legislated body that advises Ontario's Ministry of Labour on health and safety issues.

From January 2016 to 2018, she taught forensic kinesiology at the University of Guelph-Humber.

"This course taught kinesiologists to assess and reconstruct the human movement contribution to accidents in an effort to understand and prevent future accidents," Oliver says on her LinkedIn page.

"A new chapter is about to be written," she says.

"Safe and healthy living starts at home. I’m back in the Soo to be a health and safety team member at Algoma Steel." 

"Originally from Sault Ste. Marie, Erin is a seasoned health and safety professional with over 25 years of experience and a proven track record in enhancing safety culture across sectors including construction, health care, forestry and manufacturing," the company said in a news release.

"During her tenure at a Canada-wide mechanical and electrical contracting firm [Modern Niagara Group], she helped drive significant improvements in health and safety standards, earning her multiple awards for leadership in safety excellence," the release said.

"I am excited to return to Sault Ste. Marie and join a company that cares deeply about its people and recognizes the need to continuously invest, learn and enhance safety practices," Oliver said.

"I look forward to working with the existing health and safety team to advance the great work already underway.”

“I am excited to welcome Erin to the leadership team at a critical time in Algoma’s transformation to become a North American leader in green steel,” said CEO Garcia.

"Erin brings a depth of experience and expertise in building robust safety-first cultures and her appointment to our leadership team in this new role speaks to our ongoing commitment and investment in safety to ensure that safety is front and centre in all we do.”

In 2021, Algoma Steel was preparing to launch as a publicly traded company without a single woman among its director nominees and executive officers.

After SooToday exclusively reported that the last company on Standard and Poor's 500 with an all-male board had just added a woman director two months earlier, Algoma quickly changed its tune and the firm now has three women as directors and two female vice-presidents.

Before coming to Sault Ste. Marie, Garcia was known for supporting gender and racial diversity in leadership, often going on social media to congratulate women and racialized persons appointed to corporate boards and management.

— SooToday