Veronica started the job as a safety officer in a bit of a round about way. She worked in manufacturing and construction for years before she took up the opportunity to be a safety officer. “I went left field!” she laughs. “For 15 years before I was in civil construction I was in domestic and industrial sewing. It was just chance I had an opportunity to drive trucks.”
“Sometimes it’s worth taking that risk. Even if it’s something you’re never done before, it can open other doors.”
“I had an opportunity to drive a heavy rigid truck on road works and really enjoyed it. I got logged hours on a body truck then went for my heavy rigid licence.” Veronica shares. Then she got the opportunity to learn do drive other machines, like multi-articulated tip trucks. “I just never said no to being offered opportunities to try new things, my basic attitude was to try new things in that role.”
“Then I went into a labour role agency to go on machines on sites. It was a civil project on a mine site. I was nominated to be a safety officer for the crew. I was given course in health and safety, incident reporting, and had a supervisors role. I really enjoyed that and that’s what pushed me to pursue the role in safety, I thought I could make a difference.”
After she finished the project on the mine site, she was offered the safety officer role at Dawson’s engineering. “Now I deal with personnel who get injured and getting them back into the workforce” she says. “Now I’m a trainer and assessor, we both go to train trainers, with BHP with injury-free workplaces which deals with people’s attitudes to safety. Now we’re trying to change people’s attitudes to safety and awareness.”
Veronica says her role is really about changing culture to look at safety more seriously. “This last training course, that’s where it stands out, you can only hope other businesses will take it on board a bit. Training just policies and procedures aren’t going to change the way we think.”
Her day to day work has a lot of variety and travelling involved. “We send a lot of people across North Queensland or the Northern Territory, so I look after incidents that happen on construction or mine sites. I deal with incident reports, work cover, inputting of data.” She says. “We make sure the sites we send them have their safety in part. Now I go as a representative out to various sites, keeping an eye on the safety management.”
Veronica says that you need to be really open to listening to people, and open to learning to be a Safety Officer. “As a safety office … you need to be a strong person, to be confident to stop a job if there’s a risk. You need to be able to communicate to people. I certainly try to achieve that.”
“I learn all the time. I’ve mainly worked with heavy machinery, heavy plants. Since I’ve been with Dawson’s, I work more in mills in shutdowns and maintenance, that’s a steep learning curve. I learn from the guys out there. If there is a safety issues that I need to speak to them about, that we can discuss it rather just tell them they’re there ‘doing it wrong.’”
As for having a background in industry, it helps her integrate with the staff she’s working with, helps them be more accepting of what I she has to say because she has experience in the field. “It certainly aids in what you’re trying to achieve in having some background.”
“I’m a fairly independent, strong person and I guess, and I’m fairly easy going, but I’m no-nonsense.” Veronica says that she hasn’t had a problem as a female in a male-dominated industry. “I personally haven’t come across any problem working in the workforce. If you’re open, strong and confident within yourself, that you know what your saying is right, get your facts together.” She advises. “I’m not talking about being aggressive, but part of your confidence. I think some women would find it hard, and I’ve seen some guys pick up on that and play with it. It is a great industry, but be confident, be open to learning to learning and you’ll get there.”
“It is a male dominated industry, but there are more women coming into the industry. Dawson is great as far as equality goes. They’ve got female apprentices coming up in the ranks.” She explains. “I like being on machines, but I thought I could make more of a difference in this role than being in the equipment.”
Veronica find the best part of her job is getting the message through to the clients she’s working with. “If you can see that you’ve made a difference, even in the little things. The little things make up the big picture. Communication, liaising with our clients out on site, has been really positive since I’ve been here.” Veronica says, “I’ve surprised myself.”
The best part of the job?
Making a difference, trying to make a difference, you don’t always see that day to day, but I certainly see enough in the short term. And constantly learning, which is why I do all these courses, to learn how to communicate best as you can chipping away at it day to day.
The hardest part of the job?
Changing the attitude, but I can see that we’re doing that - in that getting people to change those attitudes from management down. I’m not saying all management have issues. Lead by example, and get management and supervisors to lead by example. ‘Do as I do, not do as I say.’ That’s the biggest challenge. I can see that changing, it’s an ever-evolving thing. Whether you’re a general manager of a corporation, or a front line worker, I don’t take the titles into effect, we’re all people, we all need to change out attitudes in the way the way we look at things.
Advice for people entering the industry?
If you’re a person that wants to make a difference, and believe in that difference in being in safety and putting some positive things out there in whatever industry. There’ a huge call for it. And there’s a few little steps you can take, like the short courses for getting out there. Be positive about what you want to do - there’s a lot of opportunity out there for that role.