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Kevin Young’s career has taken him from the labour gangs laying pipe as a cadet with Hunter Water, to the top of Australia’s largest water utility, having recently retired as Managing Director of Sydney Water. During his career Kevin has had many opportunities to influence and improve the health, safety and wellbeing of organisations. We are very grateful to have this opportunity to hear about the changes Kevin has seen over this time, the lessons learned along the way, and the big wins he has achieved! 

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3 Value Bombs

  1. Really good quality, effective safety is actually going to result in better outcomes for customers and better productivity. Getting safety right will ultimately serve and support productivity and ultimately the customer. It's the huge paradox, as you become safer, you look after customers more and your productivity improves.
  2. People are the solution, they are the ones doing the work and experiencing the day to day challenges so they’re the ones that have the answers. It’s important to let your people know you are working on safety, but they are the solution to this major problem and they can help solve it. You need to do it together.
  3. Focus on people, process and place in that order, “You can spend your whole life on process and you can have a huge process document and you can hold it above your head, but it will never stop a piano hitting you on the head”.


Show Notes

Getting Started

[00:00:00] Welcome to this issue of Leading Safety, Keeping Safety Real. Our goal is to stretch a safety net of connections across the world through exchange of ideas between organisational leaders. These are the people who influence what thousands of people do every day at work and even at home through the culture they define and believe that permeates through their organisations. In this podcast series, organisational leaders share their personal stories about leading and engaging people in health, safety and wellbeing. We hope that as a business leader, the podcast format will make it easy to listen and pick up some pearls of wisdom. No matter where you are in the car, in a plane, between meetings or with your leadership team, in a constantly changing global tech environment, work, health and safety is one of the many areas executives and board members have to juggle. How do they fit health, safety and wellbeing in with running a successful, complex business. How do they keep it real? Our guests will share with us how they live the values they place in the people who work for them every single day, the challenges they've faced and the super wins they've had that have provided the motivation to keep them in there. It's a personal and real conversation and we know you'll learn something along the way that will help you and hopefully you'll make some great connections as well. So, let's chat.

[00:01:19] So, good morning, we're excited to welcome today's guest, Kevin Young. Kevin's career has taken him from the labor gang's laying pipe as a cadet with Hunter Water to the top of Australia's largest water utility, having recently retired as managing director of Sydney Water. During his career, Kevin has had many opportunities to influence, improve the health, safety and wellbeing of organisations. We are very grateful to have this opportunity to hear about the changes Kevin has seen over this time. The lessons learned along the way and the big wins he has achieved. So huge. Welcome to Kevin. Congratulations on your recent retirement and the beginning of your next stage of your journey. And thank you for agreeing to be a guest on our podcast today, Leading Safety, Keeping Safety Real.

[00:02:05] Thanks, Liz. Wonderful to be here.

[00:02:06] Yeah, nice to have you in Newcastle.

[00:02:08] Yeah, it's home.

[00:02:09] It is home. You and I share the love of having Newcastle as home, but often careers taking us outside of Newcastle. So it's nice to be in Newcastle together. I'd like to start our chat with a brief summary of your journey and particularly health and safety journey. What do you see as some of the unique health and safety and wellbeing challenges across your lifetime and across your industry?

[00:02:30] So I've been in the water industry, wow, for about 42 years and as you as said I started in the gangs laying water and sewer mains, and back then it was just tough work. It was what they call real men's work with big hammers and I used to come over night time and just fall down exhausted and with sore backs and I thought, wow, I've got to do well at university. I can't do this job. But I got in the industry and got into different leadership roles. I think the major change that I've seen is that when I was first in the industry, it was an organisation that just accepted that incidents happened. They say, look, just part of our life and, you know, everyone be talking about processes and systems and they say, oh, no, we're not like a factory because we spread out of this big area and every job is different for us. It's so, you know, it's impossible to get all things right. So I think big change for me in the beginning was just this mindset of people that said that people will get injured in this industry. That's the dramatic change.

[00:03:29] That just that assumption that people are going to be hurt and so you have to just deal with it.

[00:03:34] Yeah, and not just an assumption, because I was looking back through the old records of what the old lost time injury frequency rates for places like Sydney Water. I think they were something like over a hundred.

[00:03:46] Wow.

[00:03:47] And that was the time when I first joined the industry. It was it was a terrible time when I look back. And there wasn't the focus. And that's changed dramatically. And aren't we're lucky. That has always had a bit of a passion for people and culture and safety because that's so, so critical. But Hunter Water making a change there. And I still remember I was on a trip to Sydney. I had some work down there and Sydney Water had a fatality, Noel Merchant. And I thought, I'm going to go to Noel's funeral. I hadn't been to a funeral of a person that worked in the water industry before but I'll tell you what? You go to a funeral of someone that's died in the water industry, you will never forget it because you see how real it is and the family and the impact on so many people. It just cascades out. You'd see Noel's partner and his kids and his brother worked there. And I still remember, although it wasn't my company, it was going back to Newcastle just so heartfelt. Sydney Water at that time, it had three or four major fatalities that were occurring. And that was a bit of an impetus to say at Hunter Water, we've got to make this a priority. I can't have people get really hurt, injured or even a fatality on the watch at any business I'm in.

[00:05:00] A huge motivator really is not when you see the realness of the loss and the ripple effect of the loss, either through serious injury or fatalities.

[00:05:08] The ripple effect. Goes back a bit to the culture that you're talking about. I think, you know, water industry people work, they're very altruistic and they care about customers. And that's the great thing about being in the industry. I still remember talking to a lot of people in Sydney Water and saying, look, what's your focus at the moment? And they'd say it's all about customers. So when we have a major event and, you know, we've got 300 people out of water, you know, we've got to do this as quickly as we possibly can and get water on. And they would say to me sometimes, you know, we've got to put our body on the line because we care about customers. It was one of my early speeches at Sydney Water to go around the depos and say, I just want to make this clear that if the job's not, it can't be done safely, it won't be done. And someone said to me, what if 300 people are out of water, I remember saying, I don't care if 10000 people are out of water, there are 10000 people out of water and you can't do the job safely. Don't do it. And give me a call and I'll be the person that will front the media. It was a complete mindset change.

[00:06:05] Yeah, absolutely, an incredibly powerful message to deliver to a workforce of people who had previously always understood that what they needed to do was focus on just the customer, not the customer and their own safety.

[00:06:19] Exactly. So remember, in the early days, we had a complete one day focus, which was a safety focused day. But we asked the audience, please rank in the following order, safety, customer, productivity. And when the results came out, it was lower costs, customers, safety. So safety came last. I thought, wow, we've got to flip this.

[00:06:41] Yes.

[00:06:41] We've got to flip this so that Safety came first.

[00:06:43] Yeah, because the reality is, is that really good quality, effective safety is actually going to result in better outcomes for customers and better productivity. So getting those things right will ultimately serve and support each other.

[00:07:00] It's the huge paradox, Liz. It's amazing when you think about it, because actually as you become safer, you look after customers more and your productivity improves.

[00:07:10] Absolutely.

[00:07:11] So I don't know how many, you know, if you spend time going out in the field and you see, I've been lucky enough that I've been out and about, they said near you is a major incident and I've called in the guy that was running it says, I'm a bit daunted by the managing director being here. And I said, look, I'm here to observe and help. I'm not here to manage.

[00:07:28] Yes.

[00:07:29] And then he stood in front of everyone and says we've got a major incident here. We've got a lot of people out of water. I just want to go through the steps we're going to take and he systematically read through and he had people making comments and they said, are we all clear? So it was so well thought out of what they were going to do. They weren't going to dig in this location because they're worried about a pole, they were going to get the energy company come in to stabilise it. Now, I would always maintain that that job went so much better for that 15 minutes in a panic situation.

[00:07:57] Because there was the time spent thinking about it.

[00:07:59] Yeah. So, I think you're right. I think it's a great paradox that people say, no, your safety actually costs money. I think if you do safety well, that actually looks after customers. And it and it is makes you more productive.

[00:08:11] Absolutely.

[00:08:12] That's the big lesson.

[00:08:12] Really interesting journey for you as well to have gone from that very physical labor start to your career and motivation to education to lift yourself out of the actual gang work.

[00:08:25] I actually think that it gives it gave me a bit of credibility working.

[00:08:30] Yes.

[00:08:31] Because the other characteristic of the water industry is that it was, there was a clash between management and the workforce. And, you know, you'll be going through. There was ongoing strikes with changes need to be made. And I think one of the things that I was really happy I did at Hunter Water and Sydney Water was worked with unions in partnership. And we sat down and said, what are the things that we agree on that we want to do? And it was always safety and safety and wellbeing. Like you have a unity ticket.

[00:08:59] Yes.

[00:09:00] On that. And I think getting out of the office more and actually spending time with people in the field makes it real as well.

Greatest Challenges & Lessons

[00:09:07] So how about excellent safety leadership? How did you come to decide what excellent safety leadership looks like? And did you have any role models along the way, anybody that sort of influenced the way in which you went about safety leadership?

[00:09:22] My view of this has changed over time. It depends on the organisation. But when I was at Hunter Water and I wanted to make a big difference, I thought I will make it, you know, I'll go and give a lot of speeches. It's the number one value of the business. But at Hunter Water once you get everyone in a room, there's only about four hundred, four hundred and 50 people. And you would focus on this. A number of times I would write a letter, a personal letter on safety to everyone in the business. And I would personalise it with an individual comment for each person. It used to take me a Saturday, too, but I wanted people to see that I was passionate and I wasn't just going to send them something out. We achieved some great gains. Spent a bit of time in the field, and I think we got down to lost time injury free for 18 months, an incredible dropping in TRIFR's, really happy with progress. And I won the job in Sydney Water. I came out, I thought, look, I think I understand what great safety leadership is. Yeah, I'll just apply this as worked in the past. And although it's much more difficult to write an individual letter to Sydney Water because it's 9 times bigger. Yes, but I did give a lot of speeches and you know, don't do the job unless it's safe, but it was completely different and we didn't get the breakthrough that I thought we were gonna get. So we were at a TRIFR of the 20's and we dropped down to I think fifteen or something like that, which I was proud of. And the big change to me was excellent safety leadership was being passionate about it, making it your number one value, but also accountability. So I had a new general manager working for me, Andy, I learnt a lot from this because previously we'd have meetings about what we're going to do in safety and how we going to drive it forward. And my mistake was I wouldn't go out as much time in the field and verify that it was actually happening what I wanted to happen, but Andy was different in that I met him, spoke to the team and said, look, I am so frustrated that we are plateauing at this level. We need to be much better. And Andy said to me, I understand what you want and I am clear on what we're going to do. And so the next day, he got his continuous improvement team who were interestingly focusing on customer and productivity initiatives. And he said, stop all of that. We're focusing on safety. And he gave direct orders to all of his direct reports of what he wanted done within a week. And one of the direct reports told me this story, that after about two or three days, Andy said, how you going against what I asked you to do? And he said, were you serious about that? My previous executive managers have asked for things like that. But, you know, we just do other things. He said not only am I serious about it, but you've got two days left to do a week's work. I'm going to be holding you accountable for what we said we would do.

[00:12:03] What an incredibly powerful message.

[00:12:04] And that ripple went through the whole business. The other thing I think the effective safety leadership was saying people are the solution and we're working on this but you are the solution to this problem, to this major problem we have of safety and you can solve it. We've got to do this together.

[00:12:21] Because they are the people doing the work and experiencing the day to day challenges so they're the ones that have the answers, aren't they?

[00:12:29] Yeah, they're the ones that have the answers. I'll tell you one story. And a company in Australia that goes out through all interstate that goes through country areas, I was talking to the CEO once and he had to give an award to the best depo that had the best safety record. And so there's a trophy goes to it and he travels into this country area, to this depot and on the stage and says, look, you're amazing the results that you've got. Can you tell us the number one secret for how you achieve this incredible result? And the guy on the stage says, yeah, look, we had a big meeting. We weren't happy about safety. So we've got a few rules that we follow. But the first rule that we follow is anything that comes from head office we throw in the bin. And the second rule is we will do every job safely. And we've made a pact that we'll think every job through from scratch. And I thought there's a bit of that in the industry that we, it's an engineering based industry, and we tend to focus on process and that becomes real.

[00:13:26] Yeah, that's fantastic, isn't it?

[00:13:27] How embarrassing, everything you've sent us we throw in the bin but we've got the result.

[00:13:31] And it's worked for us.

[00:13:34] It's worked for us.

[00:13:34] But there's a real message in that isn't there? There's a real message of people really being very clear about what's going on for them and what the risks are that they're facing. And being able to actually, with the right equipment and right set of circumstances, can actually look after themselves really well.

[00:13:52] Some of the greatest insights I ever got was spending time in the field. So if I had any tip and be spending time in the field. I  remember going in Sydney Water and I spent time with a network tech. Our first response. So we arrive on a site and we'd be talking about safety. He'd say, oh, look, I've just got to do a risk assessment. And he would bring the computer, the tablet would fire up and then he would do, I've just got to go Kevin, just wait for I've got to go through this combination of numbers. So he would say 2, 3, 2, 3, 4, 3, 2, 3. And he would just be typing them in as he was going and I'd say, I don't understand what you're doing. And he said, ah, this is the risk assessment. They ask a series of questions, but I just go through the same sequence every time and that satisfies the computer that I've done a risk assessment. And I remember that first day and I said risk assessments are not for looking down, they're for looking up. And he said, what do you mean? And I said, could we just I'd love it. Could you do me a favour? Could we get out of the van and just have a look at the job.

[00:14:52] And discover some things that are actually happening.

[00:14:55] So what are you seeing here? And he says actually we're not too far away from the street here and it's got a lot of heavy trucks on it and there's a school over there and there's a lot of passers-by. I said that's interesting. So what are we gonna be doing about that? That's been a major change in that, you know, we've been going for more observations on your phone. So you go on site and it would ask you a series of questions and you had to speak into the phone of what you're seeing and what you're doing about it.

[00:15:20] Great.

[00:15:21] Rather than this process.

[00:15:23] Yeah. Fantastic.

[00:15:23] You know, the bow tie diagrams, one thing I have to say is, SafetyWorks has helped us so much with that, with all of the work. And you were actually our safety manager for twelve months, Liz, you were amazing.

[00:15:32] Thank you.

[00:15:33] But some of the insights from that were looking at our, our risks of major processes and the controls we put in place, like, as the managing director of the company, you don't realise what it's like to be doing the work. When you see the controls for some of the jobs, there might be 50 controls. Remember, we went through an exercise and we rated the controls. I think 25 of them were next to useless. I believe that sometime over the last 30, 40 years something's happened. And to solve that, they've said, well, every time we do a review, we had two or three more controls. Bombard a workforce with controls.

[00:16:07] And that becomes too complex and too difficult.

[00:16:10] Which is why they throw it in the bin or they type the numbers in. So it doesn't mean anything.

[00:16:16] That's right.

[00:16:17] So you're not actually putting a process in place that's good for safety.

[00:16:20] Yeah, and then you've lost the opportunity of people actually thinking about what could potentially hurt them here and actually managing what they're seeing and experiencing.

[00:16:29] Yeah. Because it got covered over with bureaucracy. Okay. So, Kevin, what's the best feedback you've ever had in relation to your own visible leadership?

[00:16:37] There's many examples. One that comes to mind. We're lucky at Sydney Water, we got a new director and his name was Trevor Bourne and I, he's so passionate about safety in the industry. Previously, this CEO of Brambles and he worked at our Orica and he came in and because we were not doing as well on our safety and wellbeing the chair asked Trevor to start a safety and wellbeing committee and have the focus on it at the board. And of course, the first meeting I gave a presentation and said, look, we used to be twenty five TRIFR and you know, we're down to 15 or 16. And these are all things we put in place and processes in place. And so I gave this complete and I remember Trevor just quiet at the end and he said, Kevin, but you do realise that you're terrible, don't you?

[00:17:23] Nice and positive feedback.

[00:17:25] And I think he's absolutely right. We're sort of thinking, how great is it that we've gone from 25 to sixteen? And he says 16, he'd done his own analysis of ASX 100 companies and their scores in safety. Even though Sydney Water's not in the ASX 100, if we were a private company, we would be, multi-billion dollar company.

[00:17:47] Sure.

[00:17:48] So he thought he would just compare us. And he says, you know, you perform, you're in the bottom half, you're close to the bottom quartile. So let's get a reality check on ourselves. And I think Trevor was great in sort of standing us up and saying what we need to do. I think the other one, Liz, is you in that, you know, when we needed some help, we got you to do an assessment of our performance and,

[00:18:10] Safety maturity.

[00:18:10] Safety maturity index. But when the results came out, I think we were sort of 38 or 40 or something like that. We were. And I thought, wow, we're not even a pass score in this. We've got a long way to go, but better than that now we want to get further, but it leads to a conversation that says what are the areas, you can't do everything, but what do you want to focus on. One of the most visible safety leadership, which gets you out in the field and talking. And that was a challenge for people.

[00:18:36] Yeah. And I think getting that feedback about that reality check, it's good to acknowledge what you have achieved and how you've got there and that reality check of well, what are we going to do next to keep us going and keep us improving? And I think that's the message there, isn't it? What has been your biggest challenge in relation to health, safety and wellbeing? And how have you gone about you gone about addressing it?

[00:18:57] It's always, for me, the biggest challenge is the people and the culture issues. Places like Sydney Water and Hunter Water, they've got an entrenched culture that's been there for a long, long time. So you're actually trying to change a culture and that is not easy to do. So the way to change the culture is to spend more time in the field, to talk to people, to give examples, to be real yourself, to invest, to hold your own people accountable. Your direct reports, I think, has been the big change in that. Tony Filacouridis who followed you as a safety manager. Remember, we said we'd run some sessions at the executive on safety. And in the past it was always an examination of the statistics. Yes. So we'd spend ten or fifteen minutes looking at the statistics. Tony sat down with me and he said, look, if that's the job of the executive, just to look at the statistics, you might as well give the game up. What you should do is be asking people that report to you. What's actually happened in major safety incidents? What's the review showing and what are you doing about driving safety. Now, that is a completely different cultural conversation compared to can I look at the statistics are we going up or going down.

[00:20:10] It's very different, isn't it? And that's the difference between sort of looking in the rear view mirror versus looking forward. And what what you can do to influence things going forward.

[00:20:18] Exactly. Exactly. So it's the looking forward that makes the big difference. It's always the culture and the people, I think that is the area. But if you can get that right, people are the solution.

[00:20:31] Absolutely. It does make a difference. And we talk about that quite a bit and talk about engaging people. So from your perspective, how you talked about writing letters to people which worked really effectively and engaging people and that worked in a in a containable organisation. When you've got to that larger organisation, what were the things that you noticed were the best and most effective at engaging people?

[00:20:58] So going around and doing like at Hunter Water, but I’d got a depo by depo and we'd have conversations about safety, so you can engage them individually. Spending time with them in the in the field, traveling around with them, that would ripple through saying the Managing Director is travelling, you know, is travelling with Bill today and Bill's a bit nervous about that and having a conversation about safety, visiting people in the field and just saying, look, I'm here to help and what can I do? And then talking to them about safety. I go around and make it real.

[00:21:24] So really having those connected conversations with people where they're working, where they're operating has been really effective.

[00:21:32] Visible safety leadership has been good. And we also did some work, some culture work within the business. We'd always done some culture work and were successful. But we were running a program of culture, which was a blue bus, which is in Newcastle as well. I think it came from Newcastle.

[00:21:50] Newcastle success story.

[00:21:52] Newcastle success story. And that says, you know, you do a half-day workshop and a two day workshop on culture and it's all about people are the solution. So the one that I went to was not that myself and my direct reports and level threes, they do a cross section through the business. So in the culture session I went to was the managing director cross-section of people across the business.

[00:22:15] Right. Great.

[00:22:16] And then you were given problems to solve and you had to solve them together. Famously blue buses they say leave RAE at the door, which is rank authority ego.

[00:22:27] That's good.

[00:22:28] So it's a it talks about what's the solution to the to the problem because you do this safety survey and you would ask people, do you think that what's the chance of having a major incident within your work group? And they say, look, incredibly high and they say, what's the chance of you having an accident? They say incredibly low. And that was through everyone that filled the survey.

[00:22:51] Yeah. That's correct.

[00:22:52] So the great thing about Blue Bus, there's a whole section on this. But the part that I really love is it's called The Window in the Mirror. So they give you an example. You're looking out a window and you can see someone doing some work on the other side and you observe it and you you feel like yelling out the window. Hi, What are you doing? You should be doing this differently. But what they say in the course is what's the difference between a window and a mirror? With a mirror, you step two paces to the right and you don't you don't look through the window. If you step two paces, the windows become a mirror and you see yourself in the mirror. And a lot of the discussion is, hey, what am I actually doing about improving safety, culture and wellbeing rather than looking out the window to tell other people what they should be doing. It matches with this safety survey that we've done. So it says to people, you are the solution to this problem but to get better you need to have a personal reflection of where you can improve.

[00:23:50] Great message. And obviously, it's been very successful in connecting people.

[00:23:54] Being successful, I think that and the focus we've done on process and place that the people issues. I think when I left Sydney Water, we were down to a TRIFR of eight, something like that, or we dropped just below. But again, Trevor says to us, eight is okay, but if you want to be good, you want to be three or four, you know.

[00:24:17] So I think your journey continuing to go forward, which is a fantastic achievement.

[00:24:22] But you think about 25, 16, the work involved in that and you get those results and then 16 to 12 and then 12 to 8. Seems to me that you've got to put as much effort or more to get from eight to six or five as you did to get from 25 to 16.

[00:24:38] Absolutely.

[00:24:39] So it's an incredible lifting in the bar.

[00:24:42] And that's that forward focus.

[00:24:44] Yeah. Continuing to improve.

[00:24:50] So you mentioned retiring then and what may be part of your future is some board work.

[00:24:51] Yeah, I'd love that.

[00:24:52] What's your feeling about what's happening at the at the C-suite and the board level around health, safety and wellbeing at the moment? What do you think are the big ticket items in that area?

[00:25:02] For the boards that I've worked for in the Sydney Water Board I have never seen a board that's so focused on culture and safety and wellbeing. So you know they are so passionate about supporters of that. Interesting aside issue, but the Hayden Royal Commission, one of the things that came out of that is that boards need to be critically aware of the culture of the business. And I rate that to be safety as well as customer.

[00:25:28] Absolutely.

[00:25:29] So I think boards are getting more interested in this topic in the culture and the safety, the wellbeing, the customer service.

[00:25:36] And the challenge around measuring that, actually understanding what it is and how to influence it is part of that isn't it?

[00:25:43] It is. So the Sydney Water boarders, Bruce Morgan said we meet ten times a year, but at least four of those have to be on a field site. And we have to have a time where the directors will spread out and talk to the people on the site and ask them questions about how it's going and safety and wellbeing and what could we do better. I think that makes it real as well. And they have people coming in from the field talking about different examples of major incidents. So I'll give you one example. I didn't set these up, but we had an example at one safety meeting where a new employee came in and said that he just started and he had to take a pipe, a duct line pipe to the field. And he loaded it up. He'd only been working for three or four days. But on his way on his way to the job, that ductile line pipe came off the truck he was driving and rolled across the road, but no one got hurt. And then he thought, what will I do here? I can't get the pipe back on the truck. I could ring some mates. We could try and organise something. And then he thought, now I'm going to ring up my boss and tell him there's been a major problem. So he rang his boss up and told him, I've got a major problem. The pipes come off and I'm okay. No one got injured, but it was a near miss. And then he was telling this to the board that I just knew I was going to get sacked over this. When he got back to the depot, they had a group that was immediately looking at the issue and they said, could you explain how you loaded the pipe on the back of the tipper truck. And they were all looking at it and they say, you know, you haven't done anything wrong here. Our instructions, our procedures need to be better. Would you do us a favor? Would you work with us on how we can improve the procedure so that this doesn't happen again? And then he went around tool box talks, talking about the fact that the pipe came off the back of his tipper and what he did to improve it. That sent a ripple through the business, which is we're about fair and just. And that's a cultural change. And, you know, I thought I didn't know where this was going. The guy's talking about a pipe coming off. I thought, well, this was a great example of the board hearing about how we need to treat things differently.

[00:27:46] And that, isn't that the ultimate that creating a learning culture is of being able to say we've had something go wrong. What can we learn from it? How do we do it differently going forward? That's a real benefit and opportunity for boards and executives.

[00:28:01] Absolutely. Going back to the culture. When I first got Sydney Water, I said we're not we haven't got enough reporting of hypos, was talking to a guy in the field. And I said, there is a lot more hypos than we're reporting. And he said, ah, we don't report hypos. I said, why not? And he said, well, I reported one once and I got called into head office and you know, and a number of people grilled me. And in the end they said to me, look, you didn't follow all the procedures. So we're putting something on your personal file to say, here's a warning for the future.

[00:28:29] So I told all my mates:.

[00:28:30] Don't worry about reporting.

[00:28:32] Don't worry about reporting. And I thought, wow, that's an insight. So you want people to report. You want that culture.

[00:28:38] That's right.

[00:28:39] And you want to be fair and just.

[00:28:40] Yeah, absolutely. And that's a great message. So you're going into a different world of not going to be responsible for the operations of Sydney Water into the future and board positions and those sorts of things. And hopefully doing lots of travelling in amongst probably a list of home jobs to be done as well. So how is it going to be keeping safety real for you going forward?

[00:29:03] It's a great question, Liz. I kept thinking, so do I focus on safety at work? But when I come home down to focus on safety, no because safety and wellbeing is just it's just it's it's always front of mind. So if you're doing things, you know, handyman things or you're working, you'd think, what have I got to do? How embarrassing would it be for me to go back to work and say, you know, I've really injured my arm doing this. I was foolish or I got something in it. So you just it's got to be 100 per cent. That's how you make it real. Think this was Hunter Water but at the end of the day, after a long day, we had a tradesman coming in to replace one of those hot and cold water dispensers in the kitchen, and he put it on a trolley and he must have left it there while he was getting something and while he left it there there was a puddle of water. And I was leaving my office and I was coming out. I thought I am so tired, but I thought no. So I waited til the next person came and I said, would you stand here until I can go get some paper towel? And I got some paper towel and I was on all fours and I was wiping the spill up and a young graduate came through, he hadn't been in the business very long and he must have thought it was a good joke, but he said to me, is it the managing directors job at the end of the day to clean the floors? I remember being on all fours looking up at him and I said, well, actually it is. And it's your job, too. If you think someone's going to slip because it's that it's the jobs, things like that you walk past.

Pearls of Wisdom

[00:30:22] That's right. Thank you so much for sharing your story. And it's really interesting to hear things, particularly having been in the one industry for that period of time and seeing the changes during that time. It's really interesting to see that journey that you've been on. So a couple of pearls of wisdom to extract from you before we finish up. What would you do differently if you had your time again?

[00:30:45] So I think as a good engineer followed the traditional approach is that if you're looking at safety, I looked at process and then place and then people. So engineers tend to love process. So I spent a lot of time on that. Someone said to me once, you can spend your whole life on process and you can have a huge process document and you can hold it above your head, but will never stop a piano hitting you on the head. Process is never going to stop that. So I think if I had my time over again I'd learn from it and I would swap it around. So I'd spend more time on the people and the place and the process. So I think that's where the gold is. Getting people on board, and I'd spend more time earlier, going out talking to people, because you can see exactly how you're helping them do the job. So I think that's my major change.

[00:31:38] Yeah. And so building on that. What advice would you give to executives of the future as to how to best demonstrate visible leadership in health, safety and wellbeing?

[00:31:47] On every exec meeting, just make safety the number one topic and not just a focus of what the KPI's are and look in the rear view mirror as you've said, Liz, it's a look at what are we doing at the moment that's driving safety forward? What are we learning from all of the events that are occurring? What do we see are the two or three things that can really make a difference? And even though trust all the execs that they're following through, I think verify and follow up and make it real and make it accountable. That's a powerful team that will drive change out talking to the whole business.

[00:32:22] Great note to end on. Thank you so much, Kevin. Really appreciate your insights and wish you all the very best in your upcoming journeys.

[00:32:30] Thanks, Liz. And I can't finish the interview without saying the help that SafetyWorks has been to us because that's the other message for me is take some time to get some external advice because you'll get an honest perspective of where you're good, but more importantly, where you can improve. So thanks for what you've done for us.

[00:32:45] Thank you so much Kevin, appreciate it.

[00:32:48] Thank you for listening to the Leading Safety podcast. This episode is brought to you by SafetyWorks Group. Leaders in Workplace Health, Safety and Wellbeing Solutions. Don't forget to rate, review and subscribe. Once you subscribe, you'll receive a reminder each time we release new episodes. You can find our podcast and lots of health and safety resources on the SafetyWorks website at


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