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Safeguard OSH Solutions - Thomson Reuters

Safeguard OSH Solutions - Thomson Reuters

Safeguard Magazine

In the spotlight—Carl Stent


What is your background?

I have studied and worked in horticultural production, education and community work and over the past 18 years have experienced risk, safety and wellbeing responsibilities. Collegiate and semi-professional sports consumed the earlier part of my life. You might say I’m a jack of all trades and a master of none. That said, I have enjoyed the process of learning to master many models rather than model any particular master.

Describe your current employment

I work as the national health and safety manager for the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA). This job provides for leadership responsibilities both within NIWA and also industry. As such I have been a director of Site Safe NZ, chairman of the NZ Association of Accredited Employers, and served on various national forums for safety and wellbeing in the workplace.

Why did you become involved in health & safety?

My journey with health and safety started with community work. What started out as a concern for unemployed youth and persons with disabilities led to workers compensation and eventually to OHS. My grandma always said “a stitch in time saves nine”, however in my working life it was hard to find that wisdom on a daily basis – so here I am today.

What training have you had for this role?

First, the experience of community work and a degree in sociology, education and psychology. Second, running my own consultancy business and doing a MBA focusing on business innovation. Third, and more tragically, the involvement in four fatalities over a six-year period. Not only was this experience sobering to the core, but it forced me to understand and learn the cause and effect relationship between organisation, people and hazardous energy.

What has been your most satisfying achievement so far?

While working as an employee wellbeing manager a focus area for me was preventive care, particularly early intervention for injury and illness diagnosis. We called it the Occupational and Rehabilitation Assessment service or ORA. A decade later and long after I have left that employer the ORA programme is alive and well.

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

Work with and live with the knowledge that three fatalities happened while I was the National Health and Safety Manager. The experience never leaves your deepest emotions.

What has surprised you about the role?

Compliance, leadership and changing human behaviour are all expected of the safety role. These are important, but it never ceases to amaze me how effective is the simple act of human engagement, taking a personal interest and sharing openly in safety conversations.

How has being in OHS changed you?

At a personal level I am more aware of my own unsafe habits. A little safety voice has grown inside me, you might say. At the organisational level I am less convinced about external statements on safety matters and more convinced when I see spontaneous worker participation.

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

If you love risk, people and organisational dynamics – go for it. Formal study if you must, but more than that, drink deeply of the lessons of life for they go to work each day in every worker and it is their heads you must understand.

What is the most risky thing you have done?

Risk to me is an opportunity for gain or loss. I recently had a double hip replacement operation. The risk of operating was one thing but the threat of gravity and falling while learning to walk again was alarmingly real, especially when I was asked to go up and down three or four steps on a stairwell before I could go home. Of course it was all done safety under supervision but it shows the point that risk is part of our lives and with correct interventions we can live and prosper with risk.

Thomson Reuters

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