Case study

HSQE adviser — Shannon Smith

Shannon has great tips for anyone who wants to secure a role as a health and safety adviser, and explains how she got her job

What did you study and how did you find this role?

I graduated in 2021 with a First Class BSc (Hons) degree in Occupational Safety and Health from the University of the West of Scotland. I saw the position with SPL Powerlines UK and applied for the job on Indeed.

How relevant is your degree to your job?

As my degree was specifically in occupational safety and health everything in it has been relevant. It has provided me with a base level of knowledge of the key pieces of legislation, and with the critical thinking skills that enable me to create comprehensive safety management structures, identify issues in our current practices, and to find the appropriate solutions.

What are your main work activities?

I could be in a variety of meetings (project specific, client, readiness reviews, etc), performing site visits (mixture of days, nights, and weekend work), conducting accident or incident investigations, and developing different pieces of H&S related paperwork (H&S management plans, risk assessments, COSHH assessments, etc).

How has your role developed and what are your career ambitions?

I have worked as a HSQE adviser in the rail industry for just over two years now and I feel like I have been continually learning throughout this period. I began in a graduate position, and I took full advantage of every opportunity to absorb knowledge from more experienced individuals around me. This has enabled me to progress to one of the main points of contact for site and office-based health and safety within my region. Moving forward my main goal is to achieve my chartership with IOSH and progress my role to senior HSQE adviser within SPL as I feel a lifelong career of learning is extremely important to me.

What do you enjoy about your job?

I enjoy being able to visit the range of work sites and observe the works being undertaken as well as talking to and forming relationships with the operatives on site. It makes it much easier for me to perform my role as a HSQE adviser if they feel comfortable approaching me with any concerns that they may have.

What are the most challenging parts?

Changing the outdated attitudes towards health and safety as unfortunately some people still believe that health and safety legislation, standards, regulations, etc. are just there to make the job harder when in reality they are there to ensure people get home safe every day.

Any words of advice for someone who wants to get into this job?

  • Get the degree - Businesses who require health and safety professionals are moving towards requiring a higher level of qualification where individuals are expected to have an undergraduate degree in a relevant H&S field of study.
  • Be an active listener - Active listening is very important as a HSQE adviser because the role is all about understanding and responding to the concerns of a variety of individuals within a business to ensure you effectively communicate the benefits of proper health and safety standards.
  • Reach out - Contact safety practitioners through platforms like IOSH and LinkedIn to gain an understanding of the industry and to help guide you on your own path into the world of health and safety. As a woman working in the rail industry, I have really benefitted from being involved with Women in Rail (WR) as it has enabled me to network and learn from other women in the industry. Also, get involved with IOSH as again it is a great way to network and learn from other health and safety professionals.

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