CEO's Update 24/3/21

By NZISM Secretary


Kia ora koutou members and supporters. I would like to begin this update by acknowledging the very courageous step our Southland Branch Manager Michelle Carter has taken, to publicly announce she is stepping back from her career to take care of her mental health, focus on her whanau and improve her wellbeing. While we will be sad to lose her leadership of our Southland Branch, the prioritisation of her mental health and her openness about this has demonstrated incredible self-awareness and role modelled what great leadership looks like.

I know that your roles as health and safety practitioners and professionals can be incredibly difficult and often isolating. For those of you who are the only health and safety person in your organisation, this must be a daily struggle. People I meet who enter this profession, often have life-changing events that set them on this path. They don’t come to health and safety without a fundamental driver of taking care of others. But are we doing a good enough job of taking care of ourselves?

In 2019 the World Health Organisation included burnout in its International Classification of Diseases, describing it as “a syndrome conceptualised as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed.” Christina Maslach of the University of California, Berkeley, Susan E. Jackson of Rutgers, and Michael Leiter of Deakin University, established six main causes of burnout:

1. Unsustainable workload
2. Perceived lack of control
3. Insufficient rewards for effort
4. Lack of a supportive community
5. Lack of fairness
6. Mismatched values and skills

While we generally talk about self-care as a solution to burnout, from this list we can see that organisations have a much bigger role to play in effectively managing burnout. I’d like to think that as a profession this is something we can address in our own workplaces. However regardless, self-care is something that we individually do have control over. Over the years I have suffered bouts of depression. The most prominent, after the birth of my second child. Self-care must be a priority for me because the impact of not putting myself first comes at too heavy a cost, which eventually impacts everyone around me.

I now make conscious decisions about the way I live to support my wellbeing. I'm lucky enough to have the option of working part-time. This gives me the space I need to take time out for myself. I have chosen a career path that aligns to my values and skills in the non-profit sector and I operate with a strong sense of fairness and equity. I have walked away from roles that have not adequately recognised my contribution and am lucky to have a great support network I can call on when needed. We won’t always have control over the identified causes of burnout, but where we can create change, we should.

NZISM is your community where you can turn for support when you need it. The Peer Support Network is here to help you and our members can be found on our website: They are a fabulous bunch of people who have a range of skills and abilities to support any need you have. If you are struggling, they are here to help. Your local Branch Manager and Committee are also a great resource, and of course, any one of the Senior Leadership Team are here for you.
Being part of NZISM means you don’t have to operate in isolation or struggle on your own. Keep connected with your community by engaging in branch events, this is where you will find people to bounce ideas off and grow your support network.

Your wellbeing is as important to us, as the importance you place on looking after others. Take time to put yourself first, and recognise when you might need help, and most of all, be OK with saying that things aren’t OK.


Selena Armstrong