Robin Peterman’s career in commercial transportation didn’t start behind the wheel, but with machines of a different sort, with Proctor & Gamble as a machinist.
“I started as a machinist, I got my air provincial ticket, did that for several years, and then I did security and loss control,” explained Peterman. “The safety was held by a different department, but I worked pretty closely with them between security, emergency response, and safety.”
Peterman would spend 23 years at Proctor & Gamble before starting a company of his own, Breakthrough Safety Services.
“I had learned transportation through working with different transportation companies, but my primary focus was pulp mill and construction work. I found I really liked transportation more than anything because any company that knows anything about safety would know that the most dangerous thing that people would ever do is drive to and from work.”
While running Breakthrough Safety Services, Peterman became close with a particular client, Alberta Motor Transport Association (AMTA) Associate Carrier Reilly Transfer, out of Grande Prairie. Peterman felt they were a natural choice to work for to see what he could do and where he could go with commercial transportation.
“An excellent safety coordinator, manager, technician, or specialist needs to be a good influencer,” he said. “And that is consistent across all aspects of jobs, trades, or any of that.”
Peterman attributed Proctor & Gamble’s culture to the passion for safety he would come to cultivate.
“Proctor really believed in training people, giving them responsibilities, and holding them accountable for the results they needed to achieve,” said Peterman.
Those same elements are what would drive Peterman in his more than 40-year career, including ten years as AMTA Grande Prairie Regional Meeting Chair and four years spent on the AMTA Injury Reduction and Training Advisory Council.
I never had much to do up until that time with the AMTA, and I started going to meetings and found their approach very similar to the Alberta Construction Safety Association,” he said. “[There were] a few key people within the network I ended up starting to belong to and develop, and I just found there was so much to do, it seemed natural to become part of the AMTA and influence.”
Peterman, with his culture for safety and sense of humour, became a familiar face at AMTA meetings and events.
“I’ve worked with Robin for the duration of my ten years with AMTA, and in that time, he’s become more than a member; he’s become a friend,” said AMTA Manager of Member Services Michelle Spacil. “His work ethic and passion for safety is relentless, and he’s always ready to help with a smile and a bad joke.”
It was that passion for safety that saw Peterman named AMTA’s Safety Person of the Year in 2021.
“Overlooking simple safety violations to quote an old term from Proctor & Gamble is asking me to compromise the value I place on your life,” Peterman said. “Basically, if you’re in there helping [drivers] do the proper pre-trips, they learn what to do, and they don’t get lazy because they know how others are doing it and what is expected of them, they just can’t compromise that.”
Now that he’s retired, Peterman who is a sixth-degree Martial Arts Master – plans on spending more time at his campsite at Lesser Slave Lake and catching up on time with friends and family.
“We need to make sure we get done [safely] at the end of the day so we’re able to go home and enjoy our time with family and friends.”