The Diploma provided opportunities for me to work in different industries

Case Study: Cat Salt, KiwiRail

Cat Salt, Zero Harm Lead, Capital Projects and Asset Development (CPAD) at KiwiRail in New Zealand gave insight into what it has been like for her working in health and safety.

Why did you choose a career in health and safety?

Health and safety runs in the family, my mum works as a health and safety professional. I was inspired by how much she enjoyed her career and I wanted something I would enjoy too. I first became really interested in health and safety as a career whilst working in civil construction, I was field testing across many different sites and experienced very different attitudes and safety cultures. I had seen the programmes and initiatives the organisation had in place to improve safety and I wanted to be part of it to make a difference. I enrolled for the NEBOSH International Diploma in Occupational Health and Safety and volunteered to be part of health and safety committees and on projects to gain experience.

Why did you choose the NEBOSH International Diploma specifically?

When I was talking through my options with colleagues and peers, NEBOSH was highly recommended by several people that had achieved the qualification. I valued their opinion and thought it was the right choice for me.

How did you find taking the qualification?  

The Diploma was very enjoyable, but it did challenge me which is what I wanted when I signed up. You must put time and effort in to succeed and I was determined to do this. I studied via distance learning and found creative ways to support my own learning and revision.

I would record myself reading out the materials, so I could listen back whenever I had time. I also went through my notes and highlighted the key points. After doing this, I created flash cards, mind maps and colourful notes (I found using different coloured pens made a difference!). I just wanted to use a mix of techniques to help me revise and retain all the valuable information the course had covered. I still look at my flash cards and notes now for help if I want a refresh on a particular topic.

In the run up to each assessment, I found it helpful to practise answering questions from past papers. It helped me get used to answering in a structured way under exam conditions, which helped keep my nerves in check on the day.

How did you juggle work and studying?

I began studying whilst on maternity leave and then I carried on whilst working part-time. Nap time was a key study window for me! The organisation I worked with were supportive of my studies and encouraged the use of work time to assess how the business was performing against my learning. This was mutually beneficial as it helped me to apply the learning I had gained from the qualification and in turn it helped the business make key improvements.

What impact has completing the NEBOSH Diploma had on your career?

The NEBOSH International Diploma firstly gave me the skillset to apply health and safety principles to any situation. This in turn opened opportunities for me to work in different industries including health, construction and now rail. I joined KiwiRail in 2018 as a Zero Harm Advisor and within 5 months I had been seconded to a lead position. This promotion was made permanent and is the role that I hold currently. I lead a team of twelve Safety, Health and Environment (SHE) professionals.  My team and I support our Capital Project and Asset Development business unit ensuring that projects are meeting our SHE obligations throughout their lifecycle.

Can you explain what your current role is and how your responsibilities have changed due to COVID-19?

As the Zero Harm Lead, my responsibilities changed slightly because of COVID-19. I must ensure that our worksites are compliant with the NZ Alert Level in place at and that we are keeping our employees and contractors informed of expectations.

What do you enjoy most about your SHE career?

Pursuing a career in SHE means you get lots of variety with a good mix between being operational, tactical, and strategic. There is always opportunity to learn, develop and network with other SHE professionals. I also feel pride that I have a role that allows me to make positive changes that directly impacts the safety and health of people at work.

Are there any aspects you do not enjoy?

It is heart-breaking hearing of injuries in the workplace and seeing the impact this has on the person, their family, and their work mates. For this reason, it is especially important that we learn from every accident and incident and see them as opportunities to make the workplace safer for our people now and in the future.

What advice would you give someone who is considering health and safety as a career?

Go for it! You need to be able to adapt rapidly as situations change, you need to be able to influence people at all levels and you need to be persistent and resilient as you can experience challenging behaviours and mindsets. The main benefit of this career is that you can apply the core principals of health and safety to almost any industry which means the opportunities are broad and you can enjoy so much variety throughout your career. You will always be learning.