Award tops off a year like no other for workplace health and safety student

Gareth Beck, a postgraduate workplace health and safety student at Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington, has been awarded the Emerging Practitioner of the Year award at the New Zealand Workplace Health and Safety Awards 2020.

Gareth receives the award on stage
Gareth Beck received the award at the Safeguard New Zealand Health and Safety Awards 2020.

The award comes at the end of an exceptional and challenging year for Gareth, who started his Postgraduate Certificate in Workplace Health and Safety with the University in March, shortly before the global pandemic became an immediate reality in New Zealand.

He says the award, received at the award ceremony in Auckland this month, is the culmination of a year of hard work and change.

“Recently, I read some work I had drafted at the start of the year, and I realised just how far I had come in the past 12 months—this year has really changed my perspective and thinking when it comes to how we go about health and safety.”

Gareth, who is originally from the UK, moved to New Zealand six years ago and began a role in contaminated land. He is now a Health and Safety Adviser for Aurecon, where he has been based for the past two years.

He was awarded the Emerging Practitioner of the Year award for establishing the Emerging Safety Leaders’ group—a forum that aims to establish a solid pipeline of younger people into the health and safety profession.

Gareth first had the idea for the group when he learned that only four to five percent of the health and safety profession are under 30 and 50 percent are over the age of 50—meaning in 10-15 years time there would be a shortfall in the profession.

“It sounds cliché, but it really was a lightbulb moment, and I realised there was room for a forum where people can engage in a space that encourages new ideas,” he says.

“It is called the emerging safety leaders’ group because it is not just for young people; it is for people who are just starting out or want to get into the profession. It allows us to engage with those from all different levels within health and safety.”

Professor Joanne Crawford, who is the inaugural Chair in Workplace Health and Safety at the University, says that the award is well-deserved.

“Gareth is an excellent student among a great cohort. He always takes the time to check in on others. We congratulate him on this award.”

For Gareth, the award has given him pause to reflect on the support of others over what has been a year like no other.

“It means a lot to be recognised by my peers, but it wouldn’t have been possible without the support of my lecturers who have been mentors, the people I have met in my classes, and those at Aurecon who challenged and supported me.”