Case study

Health and safety co-ordinator — Isobel Humphreys

Isobel studied studied BSc Safety, Health and Environmental Management at Leeds Beckett University. She now works at Hill Dickinson LLP as a health and safety co-ordinator

Why did you decide on a career as a health and safety co-ordinator?

When I was 16 I had the opportunity to complete work experience with the NHS. During this time I spoke with the head of emergency planning who opened my eyes to the idea of health and safety as a career. We discussed risk management, planning for emergencies and real incidents he has dealt with across the North West. Through this, I decided on a career in health and safety. I applied to university and luckily, got accepted.

Throughout my three years of study I learnt about the many areas you can work in as a health and safety professional and was keen to start my career by applying to be a health and safety advisor, upon graduation. 

How did you get your job?

I got my current role through a job search online and applying through the company website after deciding to gain experience in another industry, which has been really beneficial and interesting. 

However, my first role as a health and safety advisor in the NHS was obtained by reaching out to the health and safety team based in the hospital I worked in, as an administrative assistant. The team were able to offer me an interview for a role they were hiring for.

There have been many opportunities that have come my way after graduation due to me reaching out and showing interest - health and safety is a welcoming industry to new starters.

Tell us about some of your typical responsibilities.

These include:

  • site visits
  • accident investigations
  • audits (general H&S, cleaning, training etc.)
  • promoting a positive H&S culture.
  • writing and updating health and safety documents (policies, procedures, risk assessments, COSHH assessments)
  • display screen equipment (DSE) assessments
  • pregnancy risk assessments.

What part of your job do you enjoy the most?

I most enjoy working in an environment where every day is different. I work for a multi-site company, so working in a fast-paced role and getting to meet new people often is really exciting. 

By completing different types of assessments and audits I have been able to speak to many people in my office, as well as offices all around the country. The role is ever-changing and varies within each industry.

What are the challenges?

The biggest challenge I face as a health and safety advisor is altering people's perceptions of the role that health and safety play's in the workplace. Many still feel as though it's a burden, which slows things down. They don't see it as a positive, ensuring they leave work in the same way they arrived in the morning. However, through working hard to build respect and rapport with those around you, this challenge can be tackled.

What type of person would suit a career as a health and safety advisor?

I think a career as a health and safety advisor would suit a positive and pro-active person, who's not afraid to speak up. You must be a logical, forward-thinking person who can adapt to and understand the challenges you will face.  

What are your career ambitions?

My ambitions are to progress further in my role as a health and safety co-ordinator, with the hopes of achieving chartered status with the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH), within the next few years. From then on, I hope to progress into a managerial role within health and safety. 

Are you a member of a professional body? If so, what are the benefits of this?

Yes, I am currently a Certified Member of IOSH, a global organisation for health and safety professionals.

The many benefits of being a member of IOSH include:

  • Holding accreditation with a chartered body, who set world-class professional standards for workplace safety and health.
  • The ability to join groups, which aid in building valuable connections within the industry.
  • Guidance and support with your professional development.
  • Access to mentoring.
  • Access to a careers hub, which helps with tips and tricks in the workplace.
  • Monthly magazines.

Most importantly, being a member of a professional body such as IOSH helps employers recognise the continuous professional development (CPD) you maintain towards furthering your career. 

Can you talk us through two issues currently affecting your area of work?

  1. Slips, trips and falls (STF's) - STF's make up most workplace incidents in an office and are easily preventable. Ensuring good housekeeping implemented across the office has been the best aid to preventing this risk, which can be as small as a trip over a bag with no injury or as serious as a fall over an electrical cable, resulting in serious injury.
  2. Lack of awareness about the role of health and safety - As I've mentioned, many people feel as though health and safety is an added cost and a burden, when really it can prevent serious, costly incidents from happening to companies. Altering people's perception of H&S is one of the biggest issues.

What advice can you give to aspiring health and safety advisors?

The best advice I can give is to be confident and reach out to others. People in health and safety are extremely helpful and are keen to share their knowledge, so if it's an area that interests you don't be afraid to reach out through websites such as LinkedIn. 

Also, if you're planning to study towards a career in health and safety, become a student member of IOSH. There are so many resources available and you can connect with other likeminded individuals, who may also be studying a similar course to you.

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