Read the individual stories of four HSRs who shared their unique and inspiring experiences.
Kia Ora! My name is Yuet Foong and I have been working with Oranga Tamariki/Ministry for Children since 2017 as Regional Administrator – Health & Safety. I took up the position as I wanted to reinforce my knowledge and interest in health and safety, and to create similar interests among the HSRs across Tāmaki Makaurau.
My role was to oversee health and safety compliance practices in my workplace and Oranga Tamariki sites, and work alongside with Ministry of Social Development, our co-located office partner to communicate jointly on health and safety matters.
I organised road trips regularly visiting the sites to meet with the HSRs and at the same time review their health and safety compliance. One-to-one training would be held with them, and they were keen to know what made good health and safety practice at their workplace.
To show my support I attended their H&S Committee meetings. I continued raising awareness of health and safety matters within the region. For example, inviting experts to educate staff the importance of their safety, and contributing health, safety and wellbeing articles in our Auckland Administration Newsletter. I also took the opportunity initiating a networking event for our Tāmaki Makaurau HSRs; the first H&S Reps Forum was held on 30th October 2018. It was a successful forum and continues to be held yearly.
As a result of these developments and initiatives, there have been tremendous positive engagements and participation among the sites ensuring health and safety compliance is in place. The differences that I made have brought confidence to the HSRs in that they know what good health and safety practice looks like.
My journey in being a HSR has been one of the most amazing experiences that continues to motivate me to keep going. I was voted into the role with a desire to give some support and assistance to something I really knew nothing about. I took on one small thing at a time, learning what was required and then set about by sharing that with my colleagues on our Site via email (just over 100 staff).
Those early days of sharing a gentle reminder about a top-of-mind H&S topic on a regular basis, and how it relates to them, certainly built up my role as a trusted conduit for colleagues to engage. With the wonderful support of my Senior H&S Advisor, Theresa Khatchian, and her continual encouragement and guidance, things fell into place.
The best approach I found is to do one thing at a time. It becomes very real, very quickly, that there is so much that needs to be done and that can be so overwhelming. Here are a few things that have assisted me:
- Attending the training courses provided and especially knowing the various roles and responsibilities
- Engaging with other HSRs on other sites within your organisation will help to strengthen and build a great network resource
- Being a good example of H&S will ensure credibility
- Having a sense of humour
- Sharing the load with others that you work alongside - afterall, its everyone’s responsibility
- Keep your focus on “people”
- Compliance becomes a big part of the requirements under the Act which will keep everyone safe. In taking on the HSR role, I have found it more palatable for colleagues to understand the 'why' and 'how', rather than the 'must' directives alone.
In summary, I really love the role. It is challenging and demands a lot of time and energy. It requires good time management skills to be able to work it in with your substantive role. Working and caring about people makes it so rewarding and celebrating the little successes along the way.
This has led me to undertake study towards a Graduate Diploma in Occupational Health and Safety Management. I have not studied for nearly 40 years and am by no means scholastic, however, the role is giving me the incentive to want to understand, know, and be a better Health & Safety Representative.
Whaia e koe te iti Kahurangi ki te tuohu koe ke maunga teitei!
Pursue that which you cherish most dearly, should you have to give in let it be only because of some insurmountable object.
Since winning a GHSL Finalist Award in 2019, I have continued on in our local HSW Committee, providing a continuity of knowledge to the team. Over the past 5 years I have seen our committee grow year on year due to our proactive response to HSW.
Where staff were once shoulder taped to get involved, now we regularly have staff request to become a HSW rep as people can see that this committee is living its values and has a true focus on staff health, safety and wellbeing. Our focus is on providing a duty of care for the things that matter to our staff, and two of our staff who have displayed an ongoing passion in this area, have also gone on to be recognised with GHSL Finalist Awards.
This focus could change month on month – with fatigue management a key focus one month, and resilience and stress management the next. The original H&S Plan, Risk Register and other documentation that I originally pulled together is now a core part of our H&S programme, and over the last 1-2 years I have also pulled together Business Continuity Plans, Pandemic Plans and Emergency Response Plans that all reference each other and work together.
Our leadership team now has an annual focus on our business area’s top 6 perceived risks, with each leader being assigned one risk to drive positive outcomes and mitigations for these risks. Whilst these are not reviewed at every HSW meeting, these have formed some longer-term projects which we regularly consider in everyday thinking. My risk area of focus is ergonomics which allowed me to lead a team of “Design Champions” (volunteer staff within each team) when we recently refurbished its premises.
This included making sure that any changes to ergonomic considerations (furniture, desk size and setup, layout, lighting, air-conditioning etc) were considered through the lense of all staff and their daily functions. This feedback was considered as part of the final architectural and engineering design. Another risk area of focus that has allowed for a high level of cooperation across ATOC is fatigue management.
A few years ago a “fatigue trial” was put in place to understand how fatigue impacts our teams, with particular emphasis on our shift workers who work 12 hour shifts in a 24/7 environment. This trial indicated that staff were most at risk at the end of a 12 hour night shift. As part of the design of the new premises we identified an area that we labelled the “Wellbeing Room” that is in close proximity to our Control Room. Before the refurbishing was done a trial of a “nap area” was trialled and lessons learnt captured. 12 months later, upon moving back into our facility, this new room was furnished with a nap area, and a number of staff from around the business (some who would use the nap room on a regular basis and others who showed an interest in staff care) came together and determined and documented how this room would work in practice and communicated this out to staff.
This is just one example of how with consistency, continuity, and passion I have helped to drive longer term outcomes in our business for two of our focus areas, and how over time we have driven employee engagement in HSW through providing some vision and opportunity for our workers.
Kei Konei mātou mo kaumaru me to kauora - We are here for your safety and wellbeing.
Kia Ora, my name is Maria Fidow, I have been an elected Health and Safety Representative (HSR) for the Christchurch Ministry of Justice since 2018, and I was a finalist and overall winner of the Government Health and Safety Lead Awards 2019.
I have always been involved in some form of health and safety throughout my working life, having completed as many in-house health and safety courses as I could, and volunteering as a designated first aider and fire warden for as long as I can remember. The role of HSR was one I was not familiar with or what it involved, but I was intrigued to find out. As the training commenced and health and safety meetings progressed, I quickly understood the importance of the role and the positive influence it would have within workplace.
I am currently one of five HSR’s at our workplace who support over 280 staff located in the Justice Building of the Justice Emergency Services Precinct. The area we cover is large so we as HSR’s work collectively to perform quarterly risk assessments, identify hazards, review policies and promote health and safety culture. Listening to the concerns and issues of staff on an empathetic level and voicing them to management, and to our health and safety rep and committee meetings is an important part of the role.
One of the challenges we face in the role is encouraging staff to engage and participate in health and safety practices. Not raising incidents or reporting hazards are a common issue and also recognising the signs of office stress and how to manage it can also be a difficulty, therefore communication and collaboration within the workplace is key. Feedback assists us to understand where those difficulties lie so we can cater for the needs of staff where and when we can.
Interaction plays a big part in a large organisation, and other than promoting health and safety reminders which are a natural part of the role, finding other ways to communicate it more effectively makes it easier for staff to respond. This sometimes means going beyond the boundaries of the role, and for us it meant holding a lunchtime Wellness Expo showcasing businesses and bringing in speakers that could motivate staff on a wellbeing level, booking in outside providers to maintain staff wellness on a regular basis, designating ourselves into specific areas so that teams can have an HSR as a direct point of call, and producing an informative newsletter dedicated to communicating health and safety messages for staff in a fun and uplifting way.
I must admit, it is not an easy role and at times and can be challenging, the issues that may seem simple on the surface can turn out to have an underlying complexity that can take it to another level, therefore as an HSR you must be prepared for that uncertainty in any situation. However, it most definitely has its rewards and provides opportunities for those who wish to pursue health and safety as a career.
Being presented with the awards in 2019 was an honour, a privilege and a motivator for me to perform better as an HSR. What has helped my performance, is working alongside a team of like-minded HSR’s in experience and background whose goal it is to actively contribute to making a positive difference to the workplace, also the support from management to perform our role plays a major part in being a successful HSR.