The most fulfilling part of Buyani Mxolisi Phakathi’s day is when his South African Airways (SAA) Technical family go home safe and healthy after a long day’s work. In his role as a safety, health and environmental specialist at SAA Technical, Phakathi shoulders the responsibility of ensuring that aircraft engineers and maintenance employees are working in a safe and healthy environment. “There are so many developments in my area of expertise and regulations keep changing so that even after a number of years in this job, my day-to-day work remains diverse and interesting,” he says.
Not that his job comes without its challenges. When things go wrong, safety, health and environmental specialists can be prosecuted. They must to ensure that they keep their skills up to date and never advise on anything they aren’t entirely sure about. But Phakathi is up for the challenge. “This keeps on my toes and eager to learn every day,” he says.
He grew up in the township of Umlazi and attended high school in the south Durban basin where there were many industries and refineries. He was therefore an active participant in environmental projects at school, like pollution prevention and clean-up campaigns, which sparked his interest in environmental health and management. Before he moved to Johannesburg, he was involved in a school beautification project in the southern rural Durban area, which focused on rewarding rural primary schools for going the extra mile to clean up and beautify their properties.
Through that journey he learnt the value of working together to effect positive change and create environmental health sustainability. Phakathi is currently completing his MBA and concurrently pursuing a master’s in public health. Next on his to-do list is a PhD in leadership: “A PhD will enable me to look forward to being able to provide more interesting and valuable advice and research and development in the field of work I do. I believe that the more informed you are, the more empowered you are and the greater your chances of achieving success to make a significant contribution to new knowledge in business and area of expertise.” — Fatima Asmal