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Safeguard OSH Solutions - Thomson Reuters

Safeguard OSH Solutions - Thomson Reuters

Safeguard Magazine

Hi-Vis—Julian Hughes


What is your background?

I grew up in a small place called Waimamaku near the shores of the Hokianga harbour. After high school and university in Auckland I have spent my adult years steadily moving south. I have six beautiful children and a big family house in Tawa. I have had a number of rewarding roles over the past 15 years in the public and private sector, all related to health, safety and rehabilitation. Prior to starting my current role in 2012 I was the national manager of safety and wellbeing at the NZ Fire Service for five years.

Describe your current employment

I believe I have the best health and safety job in the country at the moment. The Forum presents a unique opportunity to create a real and lasting change by engaging senior business leaders to drive improved health and safety performance in their business and in the businesses they interact with. My role is to drive the Forum’s agenda, help to set the strategic direction and implement our work programme.

Why did you become involved in health & safety?

By accident! Like many people I did not follow a standard career path into health and safety – although I have always been interested in making a difference, helping individuals and creating opportunities for businesses to be successful by engaging their people.

What training have you had for the role?

I have a Masters in Health Science. I almost finished the OSH diploma at Massey University and have attended a number of leadership and business management courses. While all this has helped, what has been most beneficial is a commitment to life-long learning. Most of this has occurred on the job, with work colleagues and under the guidance of some seriously good leaders.

What has been your most satisfying achievement so far?

While I was with the Fire Service, helping with a national response to the earthquakes in Christchurch in 2011 and being part of the response to the Tamahere coolstore fire in 2008 were certainly difficult but rewarding experiences. More recently, building a group of over 120 CEOs who have each personally committed to making health and safety a critical part of their business.

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

There is nothing more difficult than being involved in the response to a fatal workplace incident. Being able to separate and manage the processes and the emotions is especially demanding and not something you can readily prepare for. The incidents I have been involved in have left me with memories that help to drive my commitment to workplaces that are free from harm.

What has surprised you about the role?

How much fun it is! While it is not always easy and presents challenges I have not faced before, it is lots of fun and I enjoy coming to work each day. I feel privileged to be in a position like this and I am grateful for the opportunity I have been given.

How has the role changed you?

It has broadened my view, presented opportunities I would not have otherwise had, and confirmed that senior leadership commitment, influence and empowerment are the most critical aspects of a successful health and safety approach.

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

Think broadly, be brave, understand your role and listen. Health and safety includes the complex interrelationship between individual mindsets and beliefs, collective cultures and behaviours, workplace relations, business imperatives and commercial realities. While you may be a competent manager or practitioner, you are almost always a novice in the field of work that you are exposed to. Listen to people who are experts, managers and front line workers, hear what they tell you and then use your skills to provide a meaningful response that has a realistic chance of being successful.

What is the most risky thing you’ve done?

Too many to list unfortunately, but nothing too scary in recent memory.

Thomson Reuters

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