Promoting and implementing a stronger workplace safety culture

Samantha Robinson, Senior Consultant - Safety & Risk

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Samantha’s multi-faceted role includes managing the safety branch of RPS’ safety and risk team. She works with clients as a QHSE (quality, health, safety and environment) consultant, developing management systems and helping implement workplace policies, procedures and processes, and accreditations. She is also a lead auditor, conducting both internal and external (contractor) safety audits, and a lead investigator for workplace safety incidents.

In addition, she runs RPS’ Registered Training Organization (RTO) in Australia, delivering accredited and non-accredited workplace Health & Safety training. She is also a trainer and assessor.

QWhat was your career path?

I started out doing accounts, bookkeeping and admin support, but the business I was in asked me to start doing some safety documentation work in-house. I wrote our internal safety management system and was reviewing documentation for clients and it was decided that, OK, I’d better go out and get a qualification if I was going to keep going in this direction. We started taking on more and more client work until we had to hire someone else to do the admin side.

Safety was never something that I saw myself going into, but the opportunity presented itself, I did it, and I enjoyed it. Having been doing it for so long, I also enjoy being more able to pick and choose the projects that I take on personally – auditing, doing investigations and interacting with clients. That's what I do best. I also like the management side of things, looking after the team and mentoring the others as well. That's just been fantastic.

Quick Q&A

Which woman or women inspire you?

All of the females in my family. My mother, both my grandmothers and at least two of my great grandmothers all managed and worked in successful family businesses. They were an inspiration to me on how you can have a career as well as a family and how to juggle the sometimes conflicting priorities.

What are you most proud of outside of work?

My family. I've got a fantastic, supportive husband, who was a stay-at-home dad looking after our kids. My two very beautiful daughters, who are fast becoming adults.

What do you do in your spare time?

I’m an avid reader. When I have a moment, I read anything and everything. I pick a genre and go down a rabbit hole, then come up, pick a new genre and go back down!

QWhy is the work you do important, and what does it mean to you personally?

The safety and QHSE aspects of businesses are essential. Businesses need to understand how to have a good safety culture and people should be able to speak up about issues without fear of repercussion.

I find that it's really important to be out there, talking to clients, helping them understand how they’ll meet their duty of care under the legislation. You know, we've all got family at home; it’s about making sure that everyone comes home at the end of the day, exactly as they went to work in the morning.

QWhat are some of your career highlights or exciting past projects?

I got to go to Thailand to assist one of our onshore wind farm clients. I helped them retain their environmental management system certification on two of their sites and then gain certification for the remaining six sites. I helped train their workers and implement the whole system into the company. It was a great experience – both being in Bangkok and going out to rural Thailand, meeting the people and learning about the culture, and helping people understand why they were doing [this activity]. It was also my first really big contract where I went and did something like that on my own; I'd always previously been part of teams and now I was travelling alone to a foreign country with a slightly different culture.

Another highlight is having two graduates in my team at the moment and mentoring them. I love watching them grow and being able to impart knowledge from my last 15 years! Helping these women achieve their career goals is fantastic and they still teach me new things as well.

QWhat was the most useful thing you’ve done to further your career?

Never turning down training or opportunities to learn new things. That's probably one of the big key things I tell everyone: whenever you can, get out and learn something new. I'm doing another course in two weeks’ time, this time on managing psychological hazards in the workplace.

QWhat career advice would you give to your younger self?

I suppose as women, we take on more because we are still mums and wives and so on when we come home. I’m definitely still working on this, and it can be hard in consulting, but you need to find the right balance and not try to do it all at once. I heard a good piece of advice from Murray Burling, [Managing Director – Energy, Australia Asia Pacific] the other day. He said, “A career is a marathon, not a sprint!”

QIs there anything that surprised you coming into the workplace or your industry?

Not really. I kind of grew up in the industry, but the Energy sector is still very male-dominated. I did an audit on an oil rig just before COVID: apart from myself as a consultant and one other technical person, there were no other technical women on-board the rig.

Even in this day and age, there are still not as many women in the Energy sector. Why is that? Who knows? Is it that they're not starting them early enough in school? I think high school’s probably too late to be telling girls they can do things. I’ve got two daughters and girls already fall into those gender stereotypes [about the careers they want] at a very, very young age. I think science should probably be more of a focus even in primary schools. We should tell kids about all the different jobs and things they can do with no stereotyping whatsoever. If you can do a role physically, emotionally and technically, then go for it.

I do agree that we need more women in managerial roles, especially in the Energy sector. More in less “traditional-sounding” roles as well – the technical roles.

QThe International Women’s Day theme this year is ‘Break the bias’. Have you seen barriers for women in the workplace and what can we do about them?

The Energy sector definitely does have some barriers up, although it is improving and conversations like this one are a great place to start improving awareness.

My personal approach is around supporting the women around me. I help them to achieve their goals, applaud them and really celebrate them. I do it through mentoring and teaching – my big thing – but I have seen it happen in industry that some women start working their way up and they say to others, “OK, I fought my way up. Now, you fight your way up.” My opinion is that we should be helping each other to get up there. Someone said to me, “It's about sending the elevator back down and helping others get up to the top.”

I'm all for complete equality in the workplace. I love the fact that I’m seeing more women moving into the Energy sector and also into QHSE across all industries.

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Samantha Robinson

Senior Consultant - Safety & Risk

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