Our People in Profile: General maintenance worker Danielle Hansen-O’Farrill encourages women to give working in trades a try

Danielle Hansen-O’Farrill
Danielle Hansen-O’Farrill is currently the only female on the maintenance team at the Halifax Infirmary site of the QEII Health Sciences Centre. (Lisa MacSween/NSHA)

Whether it’s repairing wheelchairs and stretchers, changing air filters or climbing ladders to fix hospital lighting, there’s really no such thing as a typical day at work for Danielle Hansen-O’Farrill.

There are always new challenges to take on and different jobs to be done around the Halifax Infirmary, where Hansen-O’Farrill has been working in general maintenance for more than eight years. 

She is currently the only female on the maintenance team at the Halifax Infirmary site of the QEII Health Sciences Centre.

“Being a female in a predominately male industry has its challenges,” Hansen-O’Farrill admitted, but the people she works alongside and helps out while on the job, whatever that may be on any given day, make her efforts all worthwhile.

“It’s all about people and the team,” she said. “I work with some really great people.”

Hansen-O’Farrill was introduced to a career in trades through Women Unlimited, a Nova Scotian not-for-profit association that promotes and supports “the full participation of women in trades and technology.”

“We work with industry, governments, educational institutions and the community to address the systemic barriers that limit the participation of diverse women in these fields,” Women Unlimited explains on its website.

Hansen-O’Farrill participated in the group’s career exploration program, which “is a free 14-week program that allows women to explore their interests in trades and technologies.”

It’s open to women who are over 18 years old; have a Grade 12 diploma or General Educational Development (GED); unemployed, underemployed or working less than 20 hours a week; not in school, community college or a full-time adult learning program; and available for a full 14 weeks to attend programming.

That’s how Hansen-O’Farrill discovered that she really enjoys working with her hands, which makes her general maintenance position at the Halifax Infirmary a perfect fit for her.

It’s not surprising then that one of her favourite parts of the job is putting things together, like pharmacy carts or blood pressure machines. 

Hansen-O’Farrill also loves having a tube of silicone in her hand to seal sinks which she said reflects her artsier side. 

Hansen-O’Farrill would love to see more women give trades a try and hopes that one day soon, she won’t be the only female member of her hospital general maintenance team.

“I think things are shifting in the right direction for women who want to work in the trades,” she said.

“It still amazes me every time I hear someone say, ‘It’s so nice to see a woman doing this job,’ ” Hansen-O’Farrill said.

“It feels so normal to me.”