Reflections on 60 years in health and safety

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Wednesday, 30 June, 2021 - 14:30
Industry news
National News

Retiring member Trevor Mayhew looks back on 60 years in the field

After a 60-years plus journey as a Safety Practitioner which began in 1953, it’s time to finish up my Institute membership.

My working life began as a Technician in Training with the Australian Post Office in 1957, progressing through various grades over 34 years.  A common task in each area was that of a First Aid or Safety Officer, often receiving an allowance in my salary. My last role in Telecom was in the Building Engineering Section as an acting Engineer in the Safety Function, primarily managing asbestos in Telecom buildings.

My early education in safety, apart from First Aid, began by attending the Sydney TAFE Plumbing Supervisors Safety course run by Bill Bishop. In 1983, I commenced a GradDip/SafetySc in the Faculty of Engineering at UNSW and was one of the first three to graduate.

In 1991, I joined WorkCover NSW in the Inhalable Particates Section in the Scientific Branch, initially as a Technical Officer.  My Graduate Diploma was recognised, and I was promoted to a Departmental Professional Officer. I was a sworn Safety Inspector, and acted from time to time as Team Coordinator, supervising up to 17 Safety Inspectors.  I also relieved as State Coordinator or State Inspector in Physical Hazard Areas i.e Construction, Confined Spaces. 

In 1993 I commenced a Masters in Applied Science (OH&S) at the University of Western Sydney. My main project was the ‘Management of Asbestos at Waste Disposal Facilities’

I retired from Workcover NSW in 2007, as a Technical Specialist (Working Environment), managing the portfolios of Indoor Air Quality, Noise, Non-ionising Radiation and Confined Spaces. My professional life was both demanding and rewarding, maintaining expert knowledge of the literature and prosecuting the legislation.

As a volunteer, I have maintained an involvement with my community.  In St John, I began as a Cadet in 1958, progressing through several roles to become the NSW State Operations Officer in 1999.  St John was successful in providing the services for the 2000 Olympic Games and I was promoted to Knight of Grace in the Order of St John for my contribution.

I served in the Citizen Military Forces from 1959 to 1973.  I qualified as a Warrant Officer in both the Royal Australian Army Medical Corps and Royal Australian Signals Corps.  I was a WO2 in 8 Sig Regt.

As a member of St John, I was the First Aid Officer for Sydney University Rugby Team for 30 years.  In 1995, The Sydney University Union awarded me a ‘Gold’ for ‘services to the football club’.  In the Queen’s Birthday Honours 2011, I was awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia for ‘Services to St John Ambulance and the Community. Recently, I also received a ‘Commendation for 65 Years Distinguished Membership by the Board of St John Ambulance Australia (NSW). 

For young people who want to have a successful career as a health and safety practitioner, I suggest that focussing on the following things will give you a great chance to make your career successful and rewarding: know your job, don’t stop learning and training, stand up for what’s right even if people disagree, make voluntary community contributions, be observant, understand the culture of the workplace you’re in, learn the art of persuasion, and persevere when it gets tough.    

I want to thank the Institute for being part of my career journey - the magazine, the conferences, the peer support, and the friendships - and wish everyone all the best in your continuing efforts to improve health and safety. There is an expectation that we return home safely each day. If we only ever save one life, it has been all worthwhile.

Trevor Mayhew OAM JP KStJ GradDip/SafetySc UNSW MAppSc (OH&S) UWS CPMSIA (Ret)