New Zealand Law Society - Nitro spaghetti kept cruise junkie on her toes

Nitro spaghetti kept cruise junkie on her toes

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Fiona Carney
Fiona Carney

Former prison nurse Fiona Carney – who once taught British defence workers how to safely handle nitroglycerin explosives and did her bit to keep Manchester police safe on the job – is the latest appointment to Simpson Grierson’s specialist health and safety advisory division.

With more than 20 years’ experience in the UK and New Zealand, Fiona joined Simpson Grierson in late January to work with health and safety director Terry Johnson in the specialist division he formed 15 months ago in response to client demand.

It is believed Simpson Grierson is the first law firm to offer the specialist service by non-lawyer health and safety professionals, and Fiona came on board because increasing client demand required additional resources.

Fiona Lindsay (Fiona) Carney
Airdrie, Scotland 
Entry to law
Non-lawyer, qualified general nurse, midwife and occupational health nurse, certified member of the New Zealand Institute of Safety Management 
Senior consultant in the employment and health and safety division of Simpson Grierson, Auckland 
Speciality area
Health and safety advisory

Her professional forte is helping clients work through technicalities on paper to get to the practicalities.

Fiona has three British nursing qualifications and is a certified member of the New Zealand Institute of Safety Management.

“We try to help clients to have the right health and safety processes and culture in existence in their business,” she says. “And hopefully they never need the lawyer. The lawyer comes in when something has gone wrong. What Terry and I do is work alongside our legal colleagues to provide that end-to-end service.

“It works both ways. A client can come to the lawyer or directly to us, but the relationship is usually initially with the lawyer first. We don’t have legal backgrounds but we work closely with our legal people.”

Before coming to New Zealand 11 years ago with husband John, a former Royal Navy chief engineer who is also a health and safety advisor, and their two sons now aged 22 and 16, Fiona began her career as an occupational health nurse working for British Aerospace Defence in Bishopton, near Glasgow.

“I always wanted to be a nurse, and fell into health and safety partly by accident.

“Bishopton was a nitroglycerin plant – making nitro in long sticks like spaghetti as part of the UK government’s defence plan. The nitro went into a casing and became part of a missile of whatever description.

“I started out there doing health checks on workers then moved into the safety side. It was helping the workers work safely in practical terms. Because no matter how detailed a document is, if the person doing the job doesn’t understand it, it doesn’t happen. It is cutting down the bureaucratic nonsense, so the requirements are understandable for the people.”

Fiona joined the Greater Manchester Police when health and safety legislation changed in the UK in the late 90s to give police officers the protection of health and safety law at work.

“Police officers were told that no matter how dangerous their job was, they had to do it safely. I was a senior advisor to change the rogues to follow the rules.”

Fiona and John came to New Zealand after visiting a nursing friend in Australia in 2004 and seeking a good lifestyle for their children.

“I came out here as a prison nurse because health and safety was not recognised at the time as a profession for immigration purposes.”

She worked at the Wiri women’s prison and Mt Eden – which she describes as “a little bit grim.”

An occasional skier, she says walking her 64kg Leonberger dog – a pure bred mix between St Bernard, Newfoundland and Great Pyrenees - gives her enough exercise.

“I do a lot of craft, such as jewellery card making, and I’m trying to do feng shui and reiki for the holistic side of wellbeing.”

The couple are cruise junkies and over new year completed their fifth cruise – from Singapore to Hong Kong on the Norwegian Star, the liner which ran out of power outside Melbourne in February. Having cruised the Med, the Pacific and Asia, their next cruise is to the Caribbean in two years for their 30th wedding anniversary.

A Motown music fan, Fiona follows the Coast radio station, and likes the British crime/forensic science TV series Waking the Dead. “And I’m still a Coro addict, although I am surrounded by guys who watch sport all the time.”

On her one-hour each way train commute from Pukekohe into Auckland she reads murder mystery and detective e-books, favouring US crime writers James Patterson, David Baldacci and Patricia Cornwell.

“We like taking overseas visitors to Rotorua and Taupo and like camping, but not in tents. Cruises have taken over our holiday time.”

Fiona drives an old Subaru hatchback – “a wreck but does its job” – and for dinner guests would like to have Margaret Thatcher, Hilary Clinton, Billy Connolly and Lily Savage, the drag queen character of British entertainer Paul O’Grady.

“As an alternative career I would have stayed with nursing. I always wanted to be a pathologist but was too lazy to study. I would do something on the medical side.”

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