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Safeguard NZ Workplace Health & Safety Awards


Top health & safety awards to doctor, asbestos campaigner, shearers

A Manawatu shearing operation, a senior occupational physician and a retired plumber have taken the top honours in Safeguard’s New Zealand Workplace Health and Safety Awards 2008.

The awards, organised by health and safety magazine Safeguard and supported by the Department of Labour, were presented at a gala dinner attended by business leaders from around the country, at Auckland’s SkyCity Convention Centre, last night [Wednesday April 9].

To mark the fourth year of the awards, a new category – the Air New Zealand lifetime achievement award – has been introduced, honouring those who have made a fundamental difference to occupational health and safety over many years.

The judging panel, which included representatives from the Department of Labour, ACC, the Council of Trade Unions, and last year’s overall winner, the Ribbonwood Group, selected two outstanding candidates to receive the inaugural awards – Dr Bill Glass from Christchurch, who has been an occupational physician and a keen advocate for workplace health and safety for 50 years, and Ed Grootegoed, a retired plumber for New Lynn, who has worked tirelessly to support the victims of asbestos-related disease and to campaign for tighter asbestos controls over the past two decades.

Ed and his late wife Lois Syret knew little about asbestos until Ed was diagnosed with an asbestos-related lung condition in the early 1990s. Soon afterwards, however, they both became active members of the Asbestos Diseases Association, travelling the country in a campervan to give whatever support they could to sufferers of mesothelioma and other asbestos-related cancers.

Ed also became a passionate campaigner, learning all he could about asbestos, and lobbying politicians, government agencies and industry groups for tighter controls, better research to determine the extent of the New Zealand problem, and effective strategies to deal with it. In 2000 Ed spoke at the Global Asbestos Congress in Brazil, sharing a podium with doctors, scientists, lawyers, academics and politicians from around the world.

Sadly Lois died last year, but Ed’s crusade continues, unabated.

In the 50 years since Dr Bill Glass qualified as an occupational physician, he has developed a reputation for challenging both his medical colleagues and government agencies to take workers seriously and accept that they know better than anyone – doctors included – when it comes to their job and way it affects them.

Bill’s interest in occupational medicine began at Otago Medical School in the late 1950s. He went to England to do a postgraduate qualification in the field before taking a post as deputy medical officer of health in Auckland.

In subsequent years he has worked in private practice, with trade unions and government agencies, at medical schools, and on a wide range of public bodies, including the panel of the Notifiable Occupational Diseases System and the National Asbestos Medical Panel, which he still convenes. He has also been a key player in medico-legal work, providing expert evidence in support of many people seeking ACC cover for work-related health conditions or gradual process injuries.

The Air New Zealand award for Best Overall Contribution to Improving Workplace Health and Safety was won by Paewai Mullins Shearing, a family-owned fourth generation shearing business based in Dannevirke.

Company directors Koro and Mavis Mullins admit that they often employ the young people that no one else wants, but their strong company culture, founded on traditional Maori values, creates an atmosphere where workers not only acquire marketable skills but also learn to respect and care for one another.

Safeguard editor Jackie Brown-Haysom says the judges were very impressed with the way the company has made the welfare of its workers a fundamental concern at every level of its operations.

“Shearing is a very physically demanding job, but Paewai Mullins has made health and safety such an integral part of everything that happens that it quickly becomes the only way its workers know how to operate,” she says. “As general manager Aria Mullins puts it, ‘health, work safety and whanaungatanga [family] are simply the way we do it.’”

Paewai Mullins also won the NZ Safety best initiative to encourage employee engagement in health and safety.

The Air New Zealand best health and safety initiative by a small business was also won by an entry from the agricultural sector. Despite having only four employees, sharemilkers Rachel and Hayden Finch of Rakaia have developed health and safety and procedures manuals, listing all hazards on their farm, the appropriate controls for them, and the safest, most effective way to do all regular tasks. They also provide hands-on training and supervision for new employees, hold monthly all-staff health and safety meetings, and provide dinner for their workers every night, to ensure they get nutritious food so they will have the energy to cope with the demands of the job.

Other category winners were:

Department of Labour best initiative to address a safety hazard

Manukau City Council, Auckland

EBOS/Ansell best initiative to address a health hazard

Siemens (NZ), Auckland.

OfficeMax best initiative to improve employee wellness

Clutha Health First, Balclutha

NZ Safety best initiative to encourage employee engagement in health and safety

Paewai Mullins Shearing, Dannevirke.

SICK best design or technology initiative

Action Tags, Hamilton

Air New Zealand best health and safety initiative by a small business

R&H Finch, Rakaia.

Transfield Services best significant health and safety initiative by a large organisation

Bank of New Zealand, nationwide

ACC best leadership of an industry sector or region

Henshaw Group, Auckland.

Safeguard health and safety practitioner of the year

John Smith, Fulton Hogan, Auckland

Ross Wilson/NZCTU most influential employee

Geoffrey Reed, Alliance Pukeuri Meat Works, Oamaru


Note: Safeguard is published by Brookers Ltd.

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