Lisa Van Der Plas; Health, Safety and Wellbeing Manager, Environment Canterbury
After being overseas for 10 years, Lisa returned to New Zealand and joined AIR New Zealand, where her passion for health and safety started.
Q1: What is your background, and how did you get started in Health and Safety?
I came back to New Zealand after 10-years overseas and soon after arriving back the opportunity to become cabin crew with Air New Zealand presented itself. A year later I was a team leader, managing a team of 30. As a result of taking on that role, my passion for health and safety surfaced to ensure that those people could carry out their duties in a safe and healthy working environment.
Q2: How has your health and safety journey progressed?
I moved from that team leader role to a People Safety Advisor role, then Operations Manager across the Christchurch and Wellington cargo facilities. After a few years, I was ready to combine my senior leadership experience with a health and safety and culture change focus. Again, another opportunity presented itself to combine that experience into one role at Environment Canterbury.
Q3: Were there any specific people who helped you on your journey?
There have been several people over the years who have helped me on my journey, and I can’t thank them enough for their belief in me and allowing me to develop the skills and knowledge while on the job. They saw my ability to connect with people and build on those relationships, take a practical approach, and understand the motivations and feelings of others.
Q4: How has health and safety changed over the last few years?
Health and safety is always evolving and over the last few years, particularly with the Covid-19 pandemic, there is a shift to a holistic focus on the care of the person as a whole. No longer do we have a one size approach, as there is such a cross-over of our work and personal lives. Our leaders now need a diverse ‘toolbox’ to ensure a positive workplace culture that also incorporates simple and practical information to ensure their team members thrive.
Q5: What are some challenges you have had to deal with and overcome in your current role?
I like to think of everything as an opportunity. I have built a new team of Health, Safety and Wellbeing professionals who are getting out into the organisation. I’m empowering them to empower all employees to embed a culture of health, safety and wellbeing as a mindset. What we are doing is challenging the status quo, just because we’ve always done it that way doesn’t mean we should continue to do it. Ask yourself ‘What’s the most simple and practical way to get the outcome we need’ – it shouldn’t be a burden.
Q6: Where do you see the industry heading in the next few years?
The last few years have already shown that the industry is evolving, particularly in the psychosocial hazard space. I see that space becoming more at the forefront on how we are designing our work systems.
Q7: Any advice for someone wanting to start a career in health and safety?
There are so many opportunities to have a career in health and safety, and it can start with becoming a health and safety representative in your current organisation. There are mentors and organisations that are leading the way – reach out to someone who you find inspiring. If you have passion and curiosity about how work can be done differently, can think outside the box in a practical, simple way that speaks to those who are doing the actual work, then this is a career path for you. It doesn’t need to be complicated when making decisions that may affect organisational change. Two core values I have is honesty and authenticity and that allows me to be open to do things differently and have courageous conversations with myself, my team and the leaders I work with.