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ERT Insight: An interview with Sandra Wagner

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Competition-winning medic, Sandra Wagner shares the reality of ERTs and the connections which stem from such teams.

Whether amongst the red dirt of central Western Australia or the competing fields of Langley Park, Sandra Wagner brings a sense of artistry to emergency response; acting with composure, compassion and strength.

In 2017 and 2018 Sandra was awarded Best Medic at the West Australian Mining Emergency Response Competition (MERC) held in Perth. Wagner shares what drove her to join an Emergency Response Team (ERT) and the influence it has had on her career.

My main reason to join an ERT was to be able to help people and the team in emergencies. When people think of ERT, they think of fighting fires, cutting up cars or going down a structure in a harness on a ropes system. Training for those skills is a lot of fun. In reality, the only reason you would use those skills is to try and rescue people.

ERTs would not put themselves in the line of fire for vehicles or property. We train hard, so when we put ourselves in that line, it is to save lives.

Sandra Wagner, current Health, Safety and Emergency Response Coordinator at Cosmos Nickel Operation, shown here at MERC WA with previous team Northern Star Jundee.

The Importance of First Aid Training

First Aid is a skill set that you can take with you everywhere you go.

Having a basic knowledge of First Aid is an essential skill everybody should have. It can be the difference between life and death – not only at work! A one day course gives the knowledge to not only help your workmates in an emergency. You can help your family, friends or the stranger in the supermarket when something happens while at home on R’n’R.

How Do You Cope with the Pressure of Being Part of the ERT?

When you are trained and confident in your abilities and work with a team you know you can rely on; you don’t feel the pressure as such, as it is shared amongst a group.

There is a physical and mental intensity. Still, I feel very privileged to be part of an essential part of mining and life in general and have the opportunity to work with great people. The workload and responsibilities are distributed to all of us. Everybody has different strengths, and once you combine all those strengths into a team, you can deal with every situation.

In What Ways Do Emergency Response Competitions Bring Value to the Mining Community?

People that are not involved in ERT can have misconceptions about the role. They see a bunch of people “having fun” playing with ropes or the fire truck on training days.

ERT competitions allow others to see how we may deal with real emergencies on site. They are an eye-opener and educational tool for everybody not actively involved in ERT. Once they realise what it is really about and how much actual training is required, they see the value and importance in Emergency response teams.

Lots of people start getting interested in joining ERT after seeing their team compete.

Why Do You Participate in Emergency Response Events like MERC?

I love them! The opportunity to put the skills I learn and the training I receive into practice. It is the best preparation for an incident or real situation on or off-site.

Teamwork within ERT is one of the most important things. Training with a team, while participating in an event such as MERC ensures; we are prepared, have the knowledge, skillset and the nerves to help and rescue lives, in case of a real emergency.

What Was Your Favourite Thing About Emergency Response Competitions?

I do not have one favourite thing, but many. Firstly, the teamwork you experience throughout the training before the competition. Then, there is the knowledge you gain, the friendships and connections you make with other teams, and the opportunity to challenge yourself as a participant in the scenarios.

Each ERT and company go in to compete, do well and ultimately win the competition. But, personally, the experiences and confidence you gain far outweigh a trophy.

How Did it Feel to be Awarded in Your Field? 

When I won the Best Medic Award at MERC for the first time in 2017, it was simply amazing. I had finished my Cert II qualification just a few months before the competition. In 2018, I wanted to better last year’s performance for myself and the team. There is always room for improvement.

Winning the award a second time was not only a fantastic achievement for myself but also for the entire team at the time, Northern Star – Jundee. My team made it possible for me to give the casualties the treatment and care they needed. Without the effort and work from my colleagues, I can’t get to the patient and do my job.

Even though the Best Medic Award is an individual trophy, the whole Jundee Team won this award once more. First Aid is after all the reason we do what we do. The entire team has the mindset of medics, and we are all trained to the same level.

I would also like to take to opportunity to thank Leon Mussell for his ongoing support, encouragement and his trust in me. He saw a Medic in me in 2017, supporting and challenging me to grow and improve. His leadership skills and the respect he receives from the entire Jundee team is next to none. I’m very fortunate to have had him as my trainer, mentor, and friend. Leon and Des Callaghan from Red Earth had a major impact on my life over the last two years, and I found a passion I never knew I had. A big thank you goes to both of them, our Team Manager David McCutcheon and the entire team for making MERC 2018 one to remember.

Sandra, right, and the Northern Star Jundee Team lead by Leon Mussell, centre.

Where Has Your Role Taken You?

Being in a position to help others, and make a difference, has impacted my life and my future carrier choices.

The learnings and experience from the MERC events not only made me a stronger ERT Member but also changed my career path. My main focus still is Occupational Health and Safety, yet my passion for ERT has never been higher.

Emergency Response Competitions are not only a great event for teams and families. They become a vital networking platform for Safety, Emergency Response and industry professionals. Because of this, I had the opportunity to join the team at Cosmos Nickel Operations with Western Areas as Health, Safety and Emergency Response Coordinator. My current role allows me to train and work with a new team, look after the on-site medical centre and to step up in the role as Health and Safety Coordinator. Whether competing or adjudicating, I continue to be involved in events such as MERC in the coming years; I’m looking forward to seeing them grow and being a part of it.


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