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Safeguard OSH Solutions - Thomson Reuters

Safeguard OSH Solutions - Thomson Reuters

Safeguard Magazine

In the spotlight—Brett Murray


How did you get involved in workplace health & safety?

As a police regional training manager in the mid-90s I was involved in initiatives with a safety component, such as the introduction of body armour, pepper spray and firearms training. In 2004 I was appointed service manager for OSH’s Taranaki region.

I was managing the Central Region for the Department of Labour when the Pike River disaster occurred. I got a call from my manager telling me to get on a plane to Greymouth.

How did you arrive at your current role?

With the formation of WorkSafe New Zealand I took on a leadership role to establish a specialist high hazard unit, as well as direct oversight shaping WorkSafe’s operational team. Prior to taking on my current role I was GM Operations with WorkSafe.

What will be your biggest challenge in the next 12 months?

These are challenging times for construction, with financial pressures, capacity and capability issues, and fragmentation. As a provider of safety training, Site Safe is already the industry leader with a NZQA Category 1 rating. My challenge is to ensure that Site Safe continues to deliver on its mandate to its members and the industry, but also to enhance our advocacy and leadership role in the sector by forging strong relationships with other key players and ensuring ongoing relevance and sustainability.

In your career, what has been your most satisfying H&S achievement?

The quality of the investigation that my team carried out into the Pike River tragedy. It was undertaken under intense political and public scrutiny, at a time when the DoL was facing mounting criticism. The bulk of the factual content in the Royal Commission report was taken directly from our investigation. Stemming from that was the work towards rebuilding political and public confidence in the regulator by establishing the High Hazard Unit.

In your career, what has been the hardest/most challenging thing you’ve had to do in H&S?

I have been confronted by the stark reality of workplace deaths on too many occasions over the past 30-plus years. It is hard dealing with the victim at the scene, but it’s the ongoing exposure to the aftermath that is hardest for me. But whatever emotions I feel pale into insignificance against the impact these incidents have on those who have lost a loved one.

In your view, what is the most important single issue in H&S facing NZ?

Addressing the imbalance between compliance versus care. Too many employers still view H&S as a compliance cost and simply pay lip service, an approach which breeds cynicism in their workplaces. Good employers take a care approach, viewing staff as people and not just a resource. We need to reach the tipping point as a society where it becomes not okay to hurt people at our workplaces, where bad employers are viewed in a similar way to how we now view drunk drivers, and good employers naturally become employers of choice.

How best to address this issue?

Firstly, compliance is a given or you are not meeting your legal obligations as a business. Moving beyond that to a dialogue – where H&S becomes part of a bigger change towards ensuring broader wellbeing – is critical if we are to see a broader societal change in attitudes.

Tell us something about yourself that might surprise readers.

I’ve been a keen motorcyclist since I got my licence at 15 and even dabbled in racing in my younger years. Spend an hour riding a bike on New Zealand roads and you will come back with a whole new perspective on effective risk management!

What is the riskiest thing you’ve done that you’re willing to confess to?

Climbing Mt Taranaki with my now brother-in-law and a couple of mates during winter when I was 19. We had one ice axe and one set of crampons between us. We ended up in a whiteout and had to spend the night sheltering under a ledge in freezing conditions at 7000ft. Fortunately the weather cleared by morning. We had adequate clothing so didn’t end up with hypothermia and were able to make our way back down safely.

Thomson Reuters

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