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Safeguard OSH Solutions - Thomson Reuters

Safeguard OSH Solutions - Thomson Reuters

Safeguard Magazine

In the spotlight—Craig Smith


What is your background?

My wife Di and I live on the beautiful Kapiti Coast on a small lifestyle block. We have two sons; one is an advisor on health and safety and employment relations, the other an assistant winemaker. Teaching was my first career. I’ve subsequently had a range of roles in social services, employment relations, R&D, policy, change management and executive management.

Describe your current employment

I’m the Independent Chair of the Health and Safety Association of New Zealand. HASANZ is the umbrella organisation for workplace health and safety professionals. We want to ensure businesses have better access to trusted advisors for healthier and safer workplaces. Our role is to lift the quality of supply of professionals and improve the sophistication and level of demand for professional advice so there are fewer fatalities and serious workplace injuries.

Why did you become involved in health & safety?

The Pike River tragedy was the catalyst. Pike changed everything – for the families, the nation, and for me personally. I was asked to lead the Secretariat for the Independent Taskforce on Workplace Health and Safety, one of the responses to the tragedy.

What training have you had for the role?

I’m no technical expert. I’m a change agent. I focus on getting behind a problem to find enduring and effective solutions through careful analysis, collaboration, joint planning and execution, and honest evaluation of impact. I’m committed to having conversations that matter; engaging the right people in shared solution finding. This is the stuff of enduring change and ownership, the kind of expectation the world now has of an effective health and safety professional.

What has been your most satisfying achievement so far?

Supporting the Independent Taskforce to conduct a thorough inquiry into New Zealand’s health and safety system. This has led to the most comprehensive changes in workplace health and safety in 20 years.

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

As part of the Taskforce work, Rob Jager and I met the families of the miners killed at Pike River on two occasions – firstly, to hear from them, and secondly, to report back on our findings. The Pike families suffered a profound loss because of health and safety failures at so many levels by so many people. Their courage and determination to ensure that their tragic loss led to fundamental change are an enduring motivation to keep vigilant.

What has surprised you about the role?

How passionate I’ve become about this and how quickly that’s happened. I continue to surprise myself and sometimes irritate my family with my risk management behavior wherever I am.

How has being in OHS changed you?

For years, I was like many New Zealanders – casual about my own health and safety and somewhat derisory about the whole thing. I just didn’t get it. How could I be so clear about so many other risks in my life – roads, weather, terrain, water safety – but so blasé about this? Once you get it, you get it. There’s no going back. A commitment to health and safety is now embedded, and aligns completely with my values.

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

Go for it, but be prepared – it’s more than a job. It’s about the things that are really important – people, mates, family, fairness, justice, the courage to speak up, achievement, and, at times, failure and pain. I can’t think of a better reason to go to work every day. Oh, and join a professional association! There’s safety and health in numbers, as well as continuous professional development.

Thomson Reuters

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