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Safeguard OSH Solutions - Thomson Reuters

Safeguard OSH Solutions - Thomson Reuters

Safeguard Magazine

Hi-Vis—Doug Pringle


What is your background?

My first job after university was as a poultry farm advisor based in Otago and Southland. From there I ended up as the livestock director for EquityCorp’s (now Harvey Farms’) meat chicken operations in the Waikato.

Why did you become involved in health & safety?

ACC offered me an injury prevention consultant role in agri-business and supported me to complete a second degree part time, specialising in health and safety. I enjoyed understanding about safety and how to make a difference for better in people’s lives.

Describe your current employment

We manage the health, safety and injury employment risk for just over 2700 full time equivalent staff and 13,000 internal students, and we always have contractors on site. The job includes oversight of a framework to manage through others the following areas: OHS legislation, hazardous substances, radiation, employment injury prevention, ergonomic interventions, compensation, and rehabilitation services to staff.

A typical week can involve developing policy and procedure, increasing staff capacity for safety by in-house training or from contracted providers, dealing with resistance, number crunching and developing reports for governance and management, assisting with the technical side of accident investigations, technical coaching, reviewing complex injury compensation situations, assessing laboratory or chemical exposures, helping identify hazards with novel situations, and reviewing how we are going. We work in a sophisticated environment and have to adjust our interactions with new technology. I am supported by a talented team of health and safety advisors on each of the university’s three campuses, a specialist hazard advisor (radiation and biological), and a rehabilitation coordinator – they do the real day to day operational work.

What training have you had for the role?

An agricultural degree in the 1970s gave a background in physiology, followed by a science degree in the 80s, majoring in health and safety. While the degrees give a good foundation and are essential for working in a rapidly changing novel environment, I have also completed training in relevant specialist areas such a radiation protection and indoor air quality. With hindsight I really appreciate the “tough stuff” that was part of early university safety courses. Some ill health situations in a university can involve lots of different disciplines: anatomy, toxicology, room ventilation, health and occupational hygiene, construction, building performance, construction methodologies, environmental monitoring, chemistry – no text book or code of practice brings all of that together.

What has been your most satisfying achievement so far?

Accumulating more than a million dollar refund to the University through ACC experience rating. We are on the way to the second!

What’s the hardest thing you’ve had to do?

Meet with grieving parents; attend the Coroners Court; doing CPR when things go wrong.

What has surprised you about the role?

Connecting up experts in different disciplines. I love working with real problems at the coal face of teaching and research. It gives the chance to be innovative in finding collaborative solutions to emerging problems and hazards the public haven’t thought of yet. I am well supported in that I am surrounded by academic experts who are passionate about their endeavours, and are prepared to help understand and solve health and safety problems.

How has the role changed you?

I’ve learned to listen better, to realise how clever the people I work with are, and I try to acknowledge different cultural or discipline value systems in relation to health and safety.

What advice would you give anyone thinking of entering the field?

Go hard out – the job is what you make it. And don’t be put off by obstructive “trolls”.

What is the most risky thing you’ve done?

At work, having a conversation with colleagues about who had the lowest life expectancy when deciding who would be closest in constructing a wall of lead bricks to shield us from a powerful radiation source. At play, as a snow skier, dropping over the edge of black chute runs such as Accelerator at Squaw Valley Olympic ski field in the Sierra Nevada.

Thomson Reuters

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