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African OSHE Professionals Need To Come Together As A United Front- CEO, HSE Connection Point

Fabian Stephan Buckley is a distinguished safety professional whose impact in his sphere cannot be ignored; From sharing valuable information to mentorship and job opportunities, among others, his contribution in the HSE Industry in Africa spanning over 17 years has continued to create value and impact positively.

Fabian is a registered Construction Health and Safety Manager and an assessor moderator registered with ‘The South African Council for the Project and Construction Management Professions (SACPCMP)’.

He has worked as a Corporate Safety, Health and Environmental Manager for an International Blue-chip company and Group SHE Manager for South African company within the Oil & Gas field.

He is the CEO of HSE Connection Point; a Safety NPO and Voluntary Association in South Africa and currently the HSE Project Manager of a reputable company in India. He sits as a Technical Committee Member of South Africa’s Department of Labour and has several safety certifications to his credit.

In this chat with HSENations; Fabian talks about the safety profession, the challenges, and lessons learned so far.

HSENations: You are the Project HSE Manager for a reputable engineering company and the CEO of HSE Connection Point. How did you start your career to this point?

Fabian: I started my career in 2003 as a junior safety officer working for one of the big 5 contractors in South Africa. I was given an opportunity to show my value as I had just completed the required safety qualification at the time. I was given two weeks to prove my worth and I have been working ever since.

HSENations: What are the challenges encountered and how were you able to surmount it?

Fabian: I have had many challenges and most involves management’s support — management always putting production over and above HSE requirements. Also working with new management and getting them to see the light and reasons why we need to work safely in various companies throughout the world.

I managed to convince many managers to see the importance of why we need to work safely which protects employees and the company’s reputation.

I also worked on my relationship with everyone and demonstrated support for both workers and the organization; building a strong bond and trust between them. I demonstrated that I am here to work with them to advise, assist and assess.

HSENations: Tell us about HSE Connection Points.

Fabian: HSE Connection Point is a registered Non-profit Company registered with the Department of Social Development and a registered Voluntary Association with the SACPCMP. We are also working towards being registered with South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA).

We focus on helping individuals and organizations to develop their skills and improve their knowledge in Health, Safety and the Environment; we help candidates become Professionals and in the process help reduce the loss of life at work.

We equally share useful information and excellent HSE related documents and various job opportunities for our members. We strive to assist candidates and mentors in having a meeting point.

We just so happen to be the lowest fee charging organization within the HSE Fraternity in South Africa. We also offer a personal approach by helping our members through coaching techniques and getting the most out of them.

HSENations: What has been the main achievement of HSE Connection Point?

Fabian: Helping many members to find employment, assisting many members to get professional certification and registration within South Africa. Also helping candidates to get the much-needed help to find mentors, that could direct their steps in other to reach a great level as a safety officer and develop them into HSE Managers. Also, having their senior managers participating in high-level meetings and making decisions that can have an impact within the industry at large.

HSENations: Let’s talk about the Covid-19; how would you compare the approach of South Africa in tackling the pandemic with other African countries? Has their approach been effective?

Fabian: I think I am not the one to answer this question because it depends on different people’s opinion. For instance, the poor who couldn’t support themselves would say it wasn’t well handled. Those who could support themselves would agree it was handled correctly. So to me, it is based on opinions.

I have also been out of the country since February 2020, so it is not fair on me to decide if they have been good or bad.

What I can say is although our positive numbers have been high, the death rates have been relatively low compared to many better-developed countries even with our very high HIV rate in the country, so I think they must be commended for this.

HSENations: What important lesson has this period taught you as a professional ?

Fabian: Never get too comfortable within your job because of situations like this show how easily our lives can be turned upside down. We need to be focusing much of our time on bio hazardous aspects and ensure we are ready both administratively and physically to detect and protect as much as we possibly can.

HSENations: As a professional, what do you say are the key challenges hindering the advancement of safety professionals and safety bodies in South Africa?

Fabian: I believe a few aspects are hindering our safety personnel. It relates to education and getting better HSE related qualifications focused around the working environments like construction, mining and industry specific as many of the qualifications are very broad, and many of the subjects are either redundant or do not add any value to the safety Professionals as many are not used within HSE.

I believe HSE training and studies should be agreed and aligned by HSE Professionals who have been working in the industry for many years who can advise on the studies and align these to International standards like NEBOSH, BCSP and IOSH etc.

There should be an alignment like engineering where a safety professional cannot be considered as a Safety officer without at least one year practical experience with infield service.

We need to benchmark with all international role players and see what we are doing compared to what others are doing and not be an island.

HSENations: Would you want to share any emotional moments in the course of your career and how it has molded you to be the person you are?

Fabian: I have had a few touching stories in my life but one that I can remember very recently was when I worked at Kusile Power Station for a Contractor for six months, and I was leaving to go to another company and when I announced I was leaving they all started singing a local dialect song and when asked what it meant they said it meant farewell we will miss you.

It brought tears to my eyes because many came up to me and said please don’t leave, you have supported us and helped us, and we are worried that things will get worse again after you leave. Similarly, the Site Manager walked up to me and said the management of this company do not know what they are losing in you and they have never had a person of your quality before.

HSENations: Any last Word?

Fabian: We as African OSHE Professionals, need to come together as a united front. We need to develop our standards and OSHE qualifications, which relate to how we work in Africa.

We need to formulate a team of professionals from all over Africa and work towards our common goals and objectives by reducing deaths, permanent disabilities and adverse effects on employee health and the impact on the environment.

We need to let go of ego’s and work together by benchmarking with each other and building our continent rather than pulling each other down. United we stand divided we fall.

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