October 2022

Robyn Bennett

NZISM President

Listening to co-speakers at the recent NZISM Canterbury/NZOHNA conference talk about psychosocial risk (Frank O'Connor), bullying and harassment (Gwen Drevitt) and workplace wellbeing (Andy Hearn) made me realise just how embedded these aspects of OSH have become. But despite the focus, and the sharing of knowledge and experiences, it can still feel as if we are just skimming the surface of what is a bigger challenge.

We know that the psychological impact of COVID-19 is not yet fully realised and our mental health services are being stretched to the brink - a position mirrored in Australia and UK. This is obviously not the fault of employers but rather a result of the time we live in. However, while we may work with people, we also know that we need employers and organisations to be engaged in active and appropriate care of their staff if we want to see real success.

So where do we start?

How do we ensure we have a consistent, effective approach that ultimately supports our people and helps our organisations to thrive? Where are the resources to support this? The reality is we are all still learning to navigate this space. It feels a bit like we are in implementation mode, while still designing solutions. Good resources are being developed, but it can be difficult to coordinate, align, and integrate them into our work practices. We are also at a point in time where we are still trying to address acute workplace safety risks and reduce fatalities on the ground, so it can feel like we are all just a bit reactive when it comes to wellbeing and mentally safe workplaces. And I think it’s ok to be curious and considered when developing the right approach for your organisation, because this is not ‘a one size fits all’ situation. Every industry, organisation - and indeed site - may need something a bit different, and a bit nuanced.

What are we doing at NZISM?

We will keep highlighting contemporary frameworks and approaches for designing mentally healthy work and continue to push for more education opportunities.The members webinar section now hosts many recordings in this space and a few key words in the search bar will help you find what you need.

For example there is:

We also have a Mental Health & Wellbeing section in our Topic Library where you will find some great material including links to WorkSafe's 'short essays on important topics'.

NZISM continues to arrange CPD events which will support and grow our understanding of wellbeing in the workplace. There was a recent session on Understanding PTSD another coming up on Preventing Burnout.

Are you also looking after yourself?

Equally crucial is our own mental health and emotional wellbeing. Our industry is under pressure with an ever-increasing demand for Health & Safety services and we still have a limited pool of people to draw from, especially in specialty areas. It might be helpful to look at the open resources shared by our Women In Safety Excellence (WISE) network on Shifting the Frantic, or the 7 Levers of Self Care. Or perhaps register for Michael Hempseed's Preventing Burnout webinar on 8 Nov?

Adding to the pressure of OHS professionals - and something that has particularly worried me - is the many organisations who added Covid management to our health and safety roles on top of what was already there. While the restrictions are now gone, we are still bearing the brunt of two years of catch-up, and it can be incredibly challenging to balance this need with our own personal needs.

I’m certainly not very good at it, but I’m trying hard to set an example for my colleagues and friends by modelling how I care for my own mental health and emotional wellbeing. It's always a good place to start.

If you wish to contact me, please do so by email at president@nzism.org.

Ngā mihi

Robyn Bennett

President, NZISM