A family run business and a passion for keeping staff safe saw the beginning of Tammy’s health & safety journey. She is now the Safety & Wellbeing Coordinator for Enterprise Recruitment and people, ensuring health and safety compliance is met both internally and with external clients.
Q1: What is your background, and how did you get started in Health and Safety?
My husband started a company in 2004 in construction (Plasterboard Installation for residential building). When the Health and Safety Act came into effect in 2015, we decided to find some help for the company to make sure we had our processes in place. We engaged Health & Safety at Work NZ to develop our health and safety management system, which was the catalyst for the start of my own health and safety journey. I’ve continued my learning about health and safety with the SiteSafe Health and Safety in Construction Programme which was an eye opener into what we should not be doing. That was when I decided to pursue a career in safety after learning that New Zealand has a long way to go to reduce our workplace injuries and illnesses.
Q2: How has your health and safety journey progressed?
From Plasterboard Installation, I then went to work at Mike Greer Architectural in 2020 where I gained practical experience and knowledge of compliance. I was encouraged to continue my professional development and began my New Zealand Diploma in Workplace Health and Safety Management (Level 6). At the end of last year, I saw an opportunity at Enterprise Recruitment for a Safety & Wellness Coordinator that would provide a more health and safety systems focused role to align with my study.
Q3: Were there any specific people who helped you on your journey?
Yes, Kelvin Sparks who initially helped me with our company’s Health & Safety encouraged me to further my health and safety training. Gillian Ferguson, Health & Safety Manager at Mike Greer Architectural, encouraged all her health and safety team members to keep progressing with their personal development. Both Kelvin and Gillian were amazing mentors and helped ignite my passion for all things health, safety and wellness.
Q4: How have you seen health and safety change over the last few years?
I have seen the health and safety management system become an important part of business structure and how many companies have aligned their entire company values with safer environments for workers. On the other hand, there are still a number of businesses I have seen that are finding it tough to implement basic health and safety requirements. There is still a ‘she’ll be right’ attitude out there. I think that COVID-19 has made everyone think a bit more about responsibilities for people at work, not just in high-risk industries. With the disruptive events in the last few years, we are seeing the need to focus more on mental health and wellbeing as another way of keeping our workers safe.
Q5: What are the biggest challenges you face now?
We are starting to realise the impact mental health has at work and we need to assess psychosocial risk just the same as physical risk. We need to implement more wellbeing initiatives and let workers know they are supported and have options when required. In addition, getting compliance buy in from smaller clients can be challenging. There needs to be more emphasis on the cost/benefit of working on your health and safety system.
Q6: In your experience, how has the health and safety culture developed over time in New Zealand?
I am seeing positive safety cultures in general in larger companies, but we still need more buy in from smaller ones. In my experience workers want to be part of the process and participate, however this is driven from the top down. It is good for employers to understand that even though there is cost in implementing positive practices, the benefits far outweigh that cost.
Q7: Where do you see the industry heading in the next few years?
There needs to be more health and safety information available and awareness for smaller businesses. A lot struggle with knowing where to start and therefore put it on the back burner. The Safety Charter is in a perfect position to be helping these businesses with the online resources available to members, the peer-to-peer support and the training and networking events. I would like to see more emphasis placed on workplace exposure and monitoring as there is so much uncertainty. Raising worker awareness so that they are aware of their own personal responsibility needs to be done better. A push on government advertising highlighting this, similar to the ACC television adverts would be a great place to start.
Q 8: Any advice for someone wanting to start a career in health and safety?
This is a very rewarding career and helps to support many people with their health and wellbeing. It is a proactive role instead of reactive and we need more professionals in the industry. There are plenty of options available to get training and the opportunities are there. You will get to meet a diverse range of people and each day brings new and interesting activities.