SAFETY4SEA: How did it come about that you joined shipping industry and your field of expertise specifically?
Sandra Welch: I worked as a hospital chaplain and industrial chaplain for a number of years as well as in community development projects and programmes in Southern Africa; this was a great opportunity to extend my skills to another industry.
S4S: What about your current job/ role most excites you and why?
S.W.: I have the best job; it is rewarding and provides huge job satisfaction because I see the positive impact the work Sailors’ Society has on the lives of seafarers and their dependants. I have also had the opportunity to develop and implement many interesting and innovative programmes and projects globally. In addition to this, I love the fact that I work with many people from different countries and nationalities as it is wonderful to learn about cultures which are new to me.
S4S: When you think of the word successful who's the first person who comes to mind and why?
S.W.: Bill Gates comes to mind as he started from humble beginnings and went on to be the principal founder of the Microsoft Corporation. I thought of him first because he’s highly successful personally but has used his wealth as a philanthropist and humanitarian to help people in need.
S4S: What is the best and what was the worst piece of advice you've ever been given and why?
S.W.: Never give up - this has made me determined and focused in all aspects of my life.
S4S: What is the most worthwhile career investment (in energy, time, money) you’ve ever made?
S.W.: Masters in HR management, it is an excellent tool for managing and effectively developing people.
S4S: If you could give a piece of advice to your 18-year-old-self one thing, what would it be and why? What piece of advice should you ignore?
S.W.: Get all your qualifications while you are young as it gets more difficult as you get older to learn new things.
S4S: In the last five years, what new belief, behaviour, or habit has most improved your business life?
S.W.: I have embraced digital technology, this has had a huge impact on the way I communicate and manage my team globally. It has brought our organisation much closer and made my team more productive.
S4S: What would you like to change in the current maritime landscape and your area of expertise specifically and why?
S.W.: Just a few months ago I came across a devastating photograph on social media that had a huge impact on me. It was an image of a seafarer who had committed suicide. We’ve been running a programme to help seafarers look after their mental health for years, so I already knew that depression is a huge problem in our industry, but seeing that image still horrified me.
I got together with my colleagues and we said, enough is enough: we need to do more to make the industry wake up to this. So we launched Not On My Watch, a campaign which aims to tackle suicide and depression among seafarers by raising awareness of the problem and making wellness training mandatory for seafarers.
Not On My Watch is a rallying cry to the maritime industry to make the mental health of their employees a priority. Of course, depression at sea isn’t just a problem for the individuals involved. Human error is a major contributor to accidents at sea, so risking seafarer health risks the safety of the ship, its cargo and the bottom line. As an industry, we rely on seafarers, so it’s down to us to protect them. We can help seafarers look after their mental health and stand by them when life gets tough. You can support the campaign at www.sailors-society.org/nomw
S4S: What is your personal motto?
S.W.: Life is too short, so make the most of it!
About Sandra Welch, Chief Operating Officer, Sailors' Society
Sandra Welch, as well as being Chief Operating Officer, heads up Sailors’ Society’s programme team, having previously worked with The Salvation Army for more than 18 years. Sandra’s previous roles include Assistant Projects Secretary for The Salvation Army’s community development projects in Southern Africa and more recently International Editor-in-Chief and Editor of three international periodicals.