A Depiction of Inspiration: Karly St. Aubin's Journey to the SH&E Profession

Her Father's Workplace Injuries Served As a Catalyst to Safety

Published on Tuesday, April 20, 2021

“I do it because I have a deep and profound respect for the people that put their health on the line every day to serve.”

In 1932, Mexican muralist Diego Rivera began constructing the “Industry of Detroit” mural at the Detroit Institute of Arts. The mural depicts the geological, technological, and human history of Detroit. More specifically, it shows hundreds of hard-working people performing the type of manual labor work upon which cities like Detroit, and to a greater extent the entire country, was built.

For Karly St. Aubin, who grew up in Detroit admiring the mural, it was a depiction of the people who put their blood, sweat, and tears into their work—people who take tremendous pride in using their hands to create something. “The food we eat, the cars we drive, the homes we live in, they are all products of thousands of men and women working,” said St. Aubin.

The mural also served as a representation of the type of pride and dedication she watched her dad, a semi-truck driver in metro Detroit, carry throughout his career. She recalls watching him lace up his work boots on the weekdays and shine them on Sundays. She credits him with instilling a work ethic and a sense of pride in one’s work that can’t be taught.

Unfortunately, after years of watching his colleagues prematurely retire due to injuries suffered as a result of the physical nature of the job, the stresses and rigor also caught up to him. Not long after his retirement ceremony, Karly’s dad began suffering severe back and knee pain, prematurely affecting his ability to do the things he once was able to do. “His work had broken his body,” said St. Aubin. “His work, that he took such pride in, crushed him.”

Having such a personal experience with the toll a job can have on someone’s body is what propelled St. Aubin to a career in safety. Karly recently graduated with a Bachelor of Environmental Health and Safety degree from Oakland University with a 3.9 GPA. She was also a recipient of the BCSP Foundation’s student scholarships—a $5,000 award made to offset tuition or expenses related to the pursuit of a safety, health, and environmental (SH&E) degree.

“Receiving the scholarship has impacted my academic career significantly,” commented St. Aubin. “As a non-traditional student, the cost of my academic career looms over me. Receiving this scholarship has helped me get five steps closer to reaching my dreams.”

And she is well on her way to those dreams, though she doesn’t plan on stopping to admire any glass ceilings along the way. Karly is also planning on pursuing a master’s degree in SH&E, and she is passionate about garnering as much diverse experience as she can, with aspirations to one day explore the behavioral aspect of safety and delve into laboratory chemical use and radioactive materials.

“I feel that the future doesn’t have glass ceilings," she added. “I will continue to try every day to make a positive impact on safety culture. I will never stop pursuing ventures that I feel will benefit the hard-working people in our workforces.”

St. Aubin is currently working as an EHS Analyst for Tenneco, an automotive components manufacturer. She plans on attaining the Graduate Safety Practitioner (GSP) designation from BCSP, which will put her on a track to the Certified Safety Professional (CSP) certification. “My commitment to improving health and safety in the workplace is translated in my certifications,” she said. “Having a visible certification immediately tells [employers and employees] that I am competent in my work, and that I am dedicated to continually learning.”

To those thinking about a career in safety, or currently pursuing a career in safety, St. Aubin spoke of the safety professional’s ability to make an impact on the world and the importance of what it is we do as safety professionals. “I get to come into work every day and see the faces of people that I am helping to get home safely,” she said. “That is the most rewarding thing I have done in my life.”

Though, that pursuit is not without challenges. The SH&E profession is constantly evolving and changing, “…which is important to think about when choosing a career.” She continued, “If you enjoy challenges, you aren’t interested in the mundane, you are a people-person, and you want to make a difference in the world, then this field is for you!”

With safety professionals like Karly St. Aubin just beginning their careers, the future of SH&E looks bright!

For more information about the Graduate Safety Practitioner (GSP) designation and how to apply, visit BCSP.ORG/GSP. More information about the BCSP Foundation’s scholarships can be found at BcspFoundation.org/grants.