Introducing myself

By NZISM Master account


Kia ora koutou to all members and supporters of NZISM. I write this in my third day as NZISM CEO, and I’m humbled and excited to work with you all in our shared mission to improve workplace safety. I’m determined to deliver a great member and volunteer experience and to use your expertise to make New Zealand safer and healthier. I want to begin by telling you about my great grandfather, William George Friend.

William was born in 1874 in New Zealand. By the 1920s he had seven children and he was working as a Tunnel and Drains Inspector for the Wellington Council. In March 1928, he was inspecting a newly dug drain in Karori, when it collapsed, crushing his kidneys. Pre-dialysis, significant kidney injury was a slow death sentence and he died nine months later on 1 December. The drainage company was prosecuted but the results of the case are lost to family history.

My great grandmother could no longer afford to send her children to school (this was prior to universal and free primary schooling) and my grandmother Mavis (the youngest) was sent to live with her aunt in Nelson.

Mavis dreamed of becoming a nurse but this was unachievable without a primary education. She was inspired by her father’s death to fight for safer working conditions and went to work for the Tailors and Tailoresses Union instead. Mavis lived to be 102 and died in 2020. She lived a long, full life but always bore the scars of losing her father (and her sister and niece who died at Tangiwai).

I thought of Mavis after Pike and when dealing with the forestry families at the CTU. I thought of her again when I watched the devastating presentation from Joe Meanen, one of the 61 survivors of the Piper Alpha disaster. I would encourage you all to watch this stunning, sobering webinar which is now up on our website. Late in the webinar, Joe says, “it’s been my experience living through this that them guys are gone, they’re dead but the people who have to pick up the pieces are the ones who are left, the mums and dads, the brothers and sisters, the wives and partners but most of all the children.”

Often you, as health and safety experts, are the thin line between the everyday and disaster. I know from experience that it’s a difficult and sometimes lonely job. You need to know many branches of science (physics, chemistry, biology, psychology), business and persuasion.

NZISM’s role is to make your job easier and less lonely. We do that by arming you with the knowledge and skills, by helping you to connect with your peers, and by advocating for a better system. I can’t wait to learn from you and work with you to make this happen.

Ngā mihi nui

Jeff Sissons