Lydia graduated from Nottingham Trent University with a degree in biological sciences and recently attained the Level 6 Diploma in Occupational Safety and Health (DipOSH) from the British Safety Council. She is currently working in occupational hygiene for a leading provider of early stage and specialist drug development services to pharmaceutical, biotechnology and medical device clients worldwide.
When I started work, I had an HND in Applied Biology. My employer agreed to sponsor me to continue with the same subject to degree level, so I did my degree part time at a local university while I was working.
I fell into occupational hygiene accidentally, by taking on responsibilities in that area as an extra component of my role as a scientist. At first, a very small part of my job was to provide support to the radiation protection supervisor. A few years later, I was given the company's health and safety function to manage, alongside my other responsibilities. However, as the company grew, that part of my job increased, and I eventually opted to pursue it as a career.
The vocational nature of the role suits my personality, and once I realised that there was also good earning potential, I decided to study for a relevant professional qualification and develop my career in the field. So, last year, I graduated from the Level 6 Diploma in Occupational Safety and Health (DipOSH). I was working full time whilst studying, so it's tough to say what skills and experience I gained specifically from the studying or the work, but the combination of the two meant that I developed my knowledge, skills and experience.
Since gaining my professional qualification, my role has expanded to manage occupational hygiene across two sites. We are currently involved in site expansion, so a lot my time is taken up with that project.
In my current role, I am responsible for managing all aspects of health, safety and hygiene for the company, which includes promoting a positive health and safety culture, performing risk assessments, reviewing all operational procedures and documentation, advising the board and senior managers on regulatory compliance, providing safety metrics to department managers, and hosting regulatory inspections,e.g. Health and Safety Executive (HSE), EA.
I am also responsible for organising the health and safety committee, coaching department representatives, delivering training on topics such as manual handling, workstation assessments, radiation protection and fire safety. I also conduct accident and incident investigations.
Since starting work, I have undertaken training in risk assessment, radiation protection supervision, IOSH Managing Safely, workstation and display screen equipment ergonomics, and legislation updates.
My favourite parts of the job are the interaction with employees at all levels in the company and promoting sensible and positive attitudes to safety. Less favourable is the fact that the job does involve a lot of influencing and persuading… this is OK, but can be wearing at times!
I am a member of the British Occupational Hygiene Society (BOHS) and the International Institute of Risk and Safety Management (IIRSM) , and I am currently working towards becoming a Chartered Member of the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH) .
My tip for people considering a career in this area is to gain some work experience in the industry you wish to work in. This really helps, as you know what the issues are because you've lived them. It helps you empathise with employees, which helps with gaining respect and cooperation. To be successful in this role, you need to be highly self-motivated, with good time management and people skills, the ability to listen, patience, and an extrovert personality type.
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