Jen Dransfield – Health & Safety Advisor, Naylor Love Canterbury Ltd
Meet Jen Dransfield, the Safety Charter’s health and safety profile for April. Starting her career as a site labourer, working alongside crane operations, Jen loved working outside and getting her hands dirty. Her journey in health and safety came about due to her practical, problem-solving nature and she has worked in varied roles across her career, culminating in her current role at Naylor Love, working on the Christchurch Cathedral re-instatement project. She is a passionate leader and is always happy to share her knowledge to see others do better and raise the bar within the industry.
Q1: What is your background, and how did you get started in Health and Safety?
I started out as a site labourer on a large HV electrical sector infrastructure project which was local to my hometown. My first role primarily involved working alongside crane operations and I loved working outside and getting my hands dirty. It was there that the practical, problem-solving aspect of health and safety really piqued my interest. I’m a ‘Parts-to-whole’ learner so the technical nature of finding solutions for better work outcomes really gets my brain going. A year or so into my first role I was asked if I’d like to manage the site’s security office, and I accepted on the condition that the site’s Health & Safety Manager taught me everything he knew. It worked out for both parties as it meant he could pawn off all his rainy day jobs to me, and I got to learn on the job.
Q2: How has your health and safety journey progressed?
I’ve enjoyed challenging myself and learning the different angles of health and safety so I’ve had quite varied roles in my career. I’ve been an officer, a trainer, a manager, a consultant, worked with one-man-bands and at corporate governance level. If I don’t feel like I have enough knowledge in something, I’m a bit of a dog with a bone and will dive deep into a particular subject so that I can have confidence I am giving my teams the best advice I can.
Q3: Were there any specific people who helped you on your journey?
Heaps. Too many to name. One thing I love about the health and safety profession and the construction industry is that people are generally happy to share their knowledge. We all want to see others doing better. We’re all here for the same reason- to ensure great project outcomes while preserving our workers’ contribution to their industry. Asking for help when we need to means our vulnerabilities act as a connector.
Q4: How has health and safety changed over the last few years?
I’ve seen some great progressive change in health and safety. We still have a way to go, and there is still a lot of room for more direct educational SME engagement, but locally the positive safety climate that came out of the Christchurch rebuild is very evident when I travel to other regions. Height safety controls have seen huge improvement, as well as dust mitigation. Even simple things like public protection – I can’t remember the last time I saw a site without perimeter fencing up, but when I arrived in Christchurch 11 years ago it wasn’t unusual which says a lot!
Q5: What are the biggest challenges you face now?
Worker-centric engagement. This is key to understanding workers’ day-to-day challenges and how they can be resolved, and in an industry where the variables are vast, the pressure’s often high and there are always fires to put out, these nuances can create barriers to having those conversations, especially for those in managerial site roles. If every site manager, foreman, project manager and director in the country picked one tradesperson a week and asked them what they needed to do their job more efficiently, what was really grinding their gears on site, or what health & safety requirement didn’t make sense to them and really took on board their response that alone would make a world of difference for our industry.
Q6: How has the health and safety culture developed over your time in New Zealand?
I’ve seen huge leaps in workplace health and safety in the last 10 years. Part of that is a result of HSWA coming in back in 2015, and more and more organisations seeing the productive value in investing in health and safety and health & safety professionals. Locally the safety climate has improved thanks to the top tier constructors who banded together at the beginning of the rebuild and committed to a global set of practical construction safety values. That commitment flowed on to subtrades, and we still see the effects of that commitment today.
Q7: Where do you see the industry heading in the next few years?
I’m constantly seeing great innovations happening in industry, and focusses on safety in design, psychological safety and mental health. I think championing those types topics can only mean good things for our industry.
Q 8: Any advice for someone wanting to start a career in health and safety?
Get connected. Find your local health and safety network. Put your hand up to be an HSR or offer to help with health & safety related tasks in your current role. I must stress that I’ve never had a health & safety professional turn me away when I’ve reached out for advice or guidance. If you’re based in Christchurch, we’d love to see you at either a Safety Charter or an Emerging Safety Leaders event – come along for a chat with like-minded people and see some cool stuff! A career in health and safety can take you some really awesome places – trust me!