Interview: Tractel’s Becky Danielson
18 October 2022
Earlier this year, the SAIA appointed Tractel’s Becky Danielson as Chair of its Fall Protection Council. Lindsey Anderson recently sat down with Danielson to discuss her background, goals and what’s to come.
For Becky Danielson’s entire professional career, safety has always been paramount. From her decade-long firefighting career to developing training programs and becoming a fall protection specialist, Danielson knows safety.
“Safety has always played a role in my careers,” Danielson tells me one August afternoon. “It’s never been anything else.”
In May, Danielson – who now serves as Tractel North America’s height safety specialist and product manager – was named Chair of the Scaffold & Access Industry Association’s (SAIA) Fall Protection Council. While the appointment, and Association, are both somewhat new territories for Danielson, fall protection and education is anything but.
Safety at height
“There’s always education when working at height,” Danielson says. “For my entire career, safety at height has always been a priority.”
As a firefighter, Danielson took numerous safety training courses, from auto extrication to farm machinery rescue and grain bin rescue, among many other.
Following her firefighting and ER days, Danielson became a training associate with Capital Safety where she managed a range of all-things-training for nearly five years. She then joined a construction firm where she was the lead trainer for OSHA-10 and OSHA-30 courses. As her career progressed, Danielson then began to develop training programs for a variety of work at height applications, including the wind and telecommunications sectors.
But it wasn’t until she joined Tractel in September 2018 that she learned about the SAIA.
“The whole [Tractel] temporary access team kept saying to me, ‘You need to be a part of this Association,’” Danielson says. “So, I went to the meeting in Cleveland and I listened. I stayed quiet. I observed.
“What I saw were a lot of younger people wanting to be involved and to move things forward in a positive direction. So, I said, ‘If you need me, at the end of the day, I’m always here to help,’ because that’s all I want to do. Truly, if there’s anything that I can give that helps one person or one company out, that’s all I want to do.”
The industry, the challenges
In male-dominated fields, women often have to prove themselves – even if their experience spans decades and their knowledge is superior. As fall protection specialist and educator, Danielson knows this all too well.
“I’ve had times when guys who’ve been in the industry 40 or 50 years enter my classroom and you just see the look on their face,” Danielson explains. “It’s like they’re saying, ‘Oh, not only am I required to do this training, but you’re going to do it?’”
This mentality can wear a person down, especially when that person is at the front of the class and is an expert in their field.
“I look at all of the women who have broken the glass ceiling and my hat goes off to them,” Danielson says, “because it’s not easy to continually get challenged on a regular basis just because you’re a woman.”
But Danielson compartmentalizes the negative and instead takes the high road.
“You have to set all of that off to the side,” she notes. “When it comes down to it, it’s about education. It’s about educating people on the rules, regulations and standards. People might think those are specific to manufacturers. They’re not. They’re industry-wide.”
Going back to a recent “you’re going to train me” moment, Danielson laughs lightheartedly when asked how the day ended up playing out.
“The gentleman came up to me and said, ‘You know, I’ve been doing this for a long time. I didn’t think I was gonna learn anything in this class. And, actually, I learned a lot.’”
SAIA Council ambitions
During Danielson’s first Committee Week presentation as Council Chair this past May, she was surprised to look out from the stage and see a full room.
“It was eye-opening to see so many amazing people who have been in this industry for a long time listening to what I had to say,” she recalls. “And what was unexpected, for me, was the amount of cross-over regarding fall protection between councils.”
One of Danielson’s goals is to address that link between Councils and to utilize others’ knowledge for the betterment of not only the Councils, but the SAIA as a whole.
“I love collaboration,” Danielson says, “but I also can lead, move the needle if I need to.”
Luckily for Danielson – who was leading the Council solo up until Committee Week – she no longer has to shoulder all of the work herself. Immediately following the event, Micah Turner of Trekker Group volunteered to join Danielson as Co-Chair.
Fall Protection goals
Together, Danielson and Turner have outlined two core goals for the Fall Protection Council: First, they want to ensure current fall protection-related terminology is laid out and provided in an easy-to-understand format so everyone can decipher it, and, second, really digging into the various fall protection standards and regulations and how they are implemented in the field in order to provide real world, best use practices.
“I always say, when it comes to fall protection, it’s not black and white,” Danielson explains. “There isn’t one tool that fits all of the different fall protection lanes out there, every industry is different and every application is different. This can be frustrating for end users, employers and the general contractors.
“Think about it this way: I can read a page over and over and over and barely retain any of it. That’s just how my brain works. But then there are some people who can read that entire page once and remember everything.”
One way to cross that hurdle, Danielson says, is to go back to the basics.
“We want to break it all down and provide the industry with what they truly need to understand. And this is important because we all interpret things in a different way. So, if you haven’t been in this industry a long time – as far as fall protection goes – or if you’ve been in only ‘one lane’ for your entire career, we want to take away any struggles they might have and provide easy to comprehend solutions.”
Danielson and Turner have wasted no time with beginning this transformation, just weeks into their Chair appointments, the two started working on overhauling the Fall Protection’s page on SAIA’s website.
“The Council’s website is not only going back to basics, but going back to the hierarchy of fall protection, really laying out what it truly is.
“And now we are able to build off of that – we have the foundation; next we will focus on the information and the education.”
To learn more about the Fall Protection Council, visit www.saiaonline.org/fallprotectequip
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