Keynote speakers

Ron Gantt (USA) "Safety through learning – Safety II in practice"

Director of Innovation & Operations, Reflect Consulting Group

To break through to the next level of safety performance a shift in perspective and practices is needed. In the words of Abraham Lincoln, “we must think anew and act anew”. Drawing on two decades in the field of health and safety management, system safety, safety leadership and human factors, Ron will discuss how businesses can tap into the adaptive, problem-solving capabilities of their people to achieve this.

Safety II and Human and Organisational Performance (HOP) have provided the foundation for a new way of thinking about safety. Many businesses realise they need to move away from learning only from failure and seeing people as the problem, towards seeing people as the solution, but wonder what they are supposed to do next. How do we take the concept of Safety II and make it work in practice?

The key is learning, or, more specifically, creating a capacity to learn from everyday work. Ron’s presentation will review how we can disrupt the ways that safety is practised in workplaces by making learning about what’s going on a core function. Ron will share a framework for assessing an organisation’s ability to learn and create innovation from that learning. Most importantly, he will highlight the things we can do almost immediately to start learning from and improving everyday work in our areas of responsibility.

Rick Eisenhart (New Zealand) "Mental health awareness and support - looking after yourself so that you can look after others"

Emergency responder and psychological first aid trainer

From New York City firefighter to Governors Bay Fire Brigade volunteer, Rick Eisenhart has hands-on experience in emergency response situations that span the globe. He has a fascinating story to tell. Rick was a first responder at the CTV building collapse during the 2011 Christchurch earthquake and, more recently, helped Auckland’s Sky City Convention Centre staff on how to manage the psychological stress of working in a disaster site in the wake of the fire.

Rick will draw on his 35+ years career in emergency services to share practical know how on identifying psychological distress in ourselves and in others, building awareness and support strategies for mental health.  A trainer with TriEx, a Gallagher Bassett company, his talk will include take home learnings and psychological first aid tips.

Connie Nicholson-Port (New Zealand) "Championing cultural values"

General Manager People & Capability/Kaitaki Tangata, Ngai Tahu Tourism 

Take this opportunity to see health and safety through a bicultural lens. Ngāi Tahu Tourism is a major player in New Zealand’s tourism sector with wide exposure to health and safety risks. It has a portfolio of 14 businesses including Shotover Jet, Guided Walks New Zealand, Dart River Adventures, Franz Josef Glacier Guides, Franz Josef Glacier Hot Pools, Hukafalls Jet, Agrodome, Rainbow Springs, Queenstown Snowmobiles, Hollyford Track and Glacier Southern Lakes Helicopters. It also owns 50% of the astro-tourism Dark Sky Project and is in a joint venture with New Zealand Rugby to develop the All Blacks Experience, opening mid 2020 at SkyCity. Ngāi Tahu is the biggest iwi by population in Te Waipounamu (the South Island) and has over 67,000 registered members, making it one of the largest whānau-owned businesses in Aotearoa.

Hear how this multi-faceted Māori enterprise maintains an unfailing focus on safety and sustainability.  People and Capability leader Connie Nicholson-Port will share her perspective on building bicultural health and safety within an organisation and delivering healthier and safer experiences. She will explore how you develop a consistent health and safety culture in an inter-generational, adventure tourism organisation with 400 workers and a million customers spread across New Zealand. Manaakitanga (looking after our people) is one of the core values that drives the way Ngāi Tahu do business. As hosts, they are committed to caring for their manuhiri (customers) and their kaimahi (team) as their own whānau.


Associate Professor Jodi Oakman (Australia) "The influence of work on health"

Head of the Centre for Ergonomics and Human Factors, La Trobe University

Musculoskeletal disorders (MSD) are the biggest occupational health issue that most organisations face. Jodi will explore the impact of work on the development of mental health and musculoskeletal disorders, drawing on contemporary evidence. She’ll also talk about the future of work and the implications for the skills required by health and safety practitioners to manage changes in the work environment and practise effectively in health and safety.

Her address will focus on her research on MSD and psychosocial factors in the workplace and how these can be managed effectively to reduce workplace harm. It will have practical application for conference delegates. “When we manage musculoskeletal disorders we need to address psychosocial aspects of the work environment as well as physical factors – how much support people get and the tools needed to support workplaces.” She’ll also draw on the research she undertook for ASHPA on the future of work for health and safety professionals, canvassing “what does the future look like?"

Phil Parkes (New Zealand) “The visible difference vision”

Chief Executive, WorkSafe New Zealand

Phil Parkes took over as CE of WorkSafe in January this year.  His driving vision for the health and safety system is that it moves beyond pure “health and safety” towards the concept of “better work”.  His view is that everyone should be focused on doing things that will make a measurable difference  to health and safety outcomes in New Zealand. The visible difference vision is designed to prompt participants in the system to recognise that doing the same thing year-on-year with no improved outcomes will not make a difference and has limited value in protecting our workers.  He is very clear – the traditional approach to health and safety alone will not result in the improvements we all seek and he will discuss the criticality of innovative thinking to making that difference.

Associate Professor Deborah Yates (Australia) "Health risks of air pollution"

Expert on occupational lung diseases, including artificial stone-associated silicosis

In October 2019 artificial stone-associated silicosis (accelerated silicosis) hit the headlines. This lung disease is caused by respirable crystalline silica, an occupational health risk associated with cutting artificial stone used in kitchen benchtops and bathroomware.

Associate Professor Deborah Yates has a special interest in occupational lung diseases caused by long-term exposure to dust and particulates, such as artificial stone dust and diesel fumes. Her address will draw on her hands-on knowledge of occupational lung diseases from her role as a Senior Staff Specialist at St Vincent’s Hospital in Sydney and her research as a Conjoint Associate Professor at the University of NSW. She will share insights on artificial stone-associated silicosis, occupational asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disorders (COPD) and their causes, management and prevention.