Gigeesh Joseph has a wealth of international health & safety experience, currently working for CPB Contractors as their Senior Health and Safety advisor on the Metro Sports facility project. Gigeesh started out studying an environmental science degree, before working in the Middle East on multibillion dollar projects for large international companies.
Q1: What is your background, and how did you get started in Health and Safety?
In 2006, Gigeesh graduated from university achieving an Environmental Science Degree, he became very interested and attracted to the idea of studying for a Fire and Safety Engineering Diploma which was the trend in the educational industry in 2007, and upon completion was lured to the Middle East to start a career in health and safety on major Oil and Gas industry projects.
Q2: How has your health and safety journey progressed?
Gigeesh’s first venture as a health and safety professional was with a local company in Bahrain that supported the Embassy of the United States of America, Health and Safety Inspector. The company embraced a very high level of health and safety standards in the industry providing an opportunity to be exposed to OSHA and British standards which helped Gigeesh expand his practical experience.
Gigeesh continued to up-skill himself and in 2012 completed NEBOSH IGC, with his health and safety career progressing to a HSE Supervisor. Gigeesh has been very fortunate to be deployed to a number of different countries located in the Middle East and was awarded opportunities to work with many different international companies which focused predominantly on Mining, Tunnelling and Oil and Gas industries, including being given the opportunity to be employed as a Senior Health and Safety Officer on a multibillion dollar ‘Guinness World Records’ (Doha Metro Qatar rail) Projects.
In 2017, Gigeesh and his wife travelled to NZ to support his wife’s dream of achieving her Ph.D. (Doctorate) at Otago University Christchurch. Gigeesh completed the NEBOSH Diploma taking on a role with consulting firm Worley Parsons, which opened opportunities with the Christchurch City Council on major projects across Canterbury and Lyttleton Port.
Q3: Were there any specific people who helped you on your journey?
When Gigeesh started his very first role at the US Embassy, he was very fortunate to be mentored by his Health and Safety Manager who was a British Army Colonel (retired) and during his time in the Middle East, was given the opportunity to work closely with many highly experienced health and safety professionals from all over the world.
On arrival in NZ, Gigeesh was mentored and coached by Kristin Hoskin (Health and Safety Risk Management). Kristin helped him embrace the NZ culture in a health and safety advisory role and more importantly showed him how to inspire people to be successful in health and safety. Kristin also tutored Gigeesh away from the typical transactional style of leadership he was used to, to a more transformational style of leadership.
Q4: How has health and safety changed over the last few years?
Gigeesh acknowledges that health and safety is now a very different prospect compared to how it was previously under the old WHS Act. Health and safety continues to improve in both NZ and around the world. The introduction of more robust management systems has helped reduce fatalities across all industries. Technology and innovative thinking by professionals have also contributed to these major changes.
Q5: What are the biggest challenges you face now?
Gigeesh found it very challenging at the beginning of his NZ health and safety journey, especially after his transition from a Safety Officer (mainly compliance and very directive style) to an Advisor (people person and relationship) role. Contractor management (smaller contractors) is another challenge he faces at the Metro Sports Project. At peak working levels they lead and manage around 350 personnel from approximately 80 contractors which demands more training, consultation, convincing level of communication and education to the ASNZ standards. Whereas overseas there was nothing short of 4,000 personnel on a project from a maximum of only 5 contractors which was not very difficult at all to manage.
Q6: How has the health and safety culture developed over your time in New Zealand?
Gigeesh notes his experience in NZ is less than 5 years so has had limited exposure to the history of health and safety in NZ. However, from his viewpoint businesses are becoming more interactive and engaging with the work forces working alongside them, and there is always more room to improve this interaction with the workforce. A robust safety culture is where management consider safety is not an option but a practice that a leadership team cultivates within the business.
In a nutshell – we must improve our leadership – be role models and have trust in our fellow workers. We must have good systems that are not complicated that we can all understand. We must communicate transparently and respectfully with one another (harmony). We must work together as a team (one big supportive family). If we don’t abide by these four the holes in the swiss cheese will line up easily leading to the possibility of a serious incident and loss of life.
Positive leadership, follow the rules, good communication and teamwork are paramount to a safe working environment.
Q7: Where do you see the industry heading in the next few years?
NZ is continuing to deliver challenging major projects across all industries which require more committed and dedicated likeminded health and safety professionals to improve the health and safety risk management system overall. Due to Covid-19 country restrictions and other various reasons, construction businesses across the country are finding it increasingly difficult to find skilled employees. There will be ongoing changes embracing innovative technology to be more efficient and health and safety needs to be more simplified without compromising its objective. Institutes such as NZISM and the Canterbury Safety Charter will always have a pivotal role to play in assisting the health and safety industry to be better than it was before.
Q 8: Any advice for someone wanting to start a career in health and safety?
Gigeesh’s health and safety career has brought him great satisfaction knowing that everyday he can make a difference by encouraging people to be safe when they work. It is vitally important that people see their families at the end of a working day. There is nothing more important than caring for people and their wellbeing. What is the most important thing in the world? “He Tangata, He Tangata, He Tangata’. It is the people, it is the people, it is the people”
All anyone ever needs to be successful in a health and safety role is passion, dedication, having a love of people and possessing an effective social intelligence.