Case study

Trainee occupational hygienist — Luke Fletcher

Luke enjoys visiting sites across the country and aims to become a fully qualified occupational hygienist within three years...

How did you get your job?

I studied for an MSc in Safety, Health and Environmental Management at the University of South Wales (formerly the University of Glamorgan). Before I started the course I successfully gained a graduate position at UK Coal in the health and safety and environmental department at the UK's largest coal mine, which gave me fantastic practical experience on the management of health and safety and environmental management at a 'high risk' site. They also paid for my MSc.

I was very fortunate to have a job whilst undertaking my MSc. Unfortunately, however, the coal mine I worked at was closed down and I was made redundant with the rest of the workforce.

I spent a few weeks unemployed and then saw an advert for a stack emissions technician with Environmental Scientifics Group. At the interview they told me I was better suited towards an occupational hygiene role, for which they were also recruiting. It happened to pay more so of course I accepted!

Get some experience of health and safety management as it looks fantastic on your CV when you get to an interview

How relevant is your degree to your job?

My undergraduate degree in consumer and trading standards is fairly redundant but my MSc, mixed with the practical experience I gained from my job at UK Coal, is very relevant. It gave me a detailed knowledge of legislation and practical application in heavy industry, especially in risk management.

What are your main work activities?

My day normally involves an early start, around 5am, and driving to site which could be anywhere in the country, often involving stopovers at hotels. Once there, I undertake a plethora of tests depending on what the customer wants. This most commonly involves dust and noise exposure on quarry sites or diesel emissions at train depots as my employer has national contracts with some of the biggest names in these respective industries.

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

As my role has developed I have taken on a wider variety of tests such as asbestos and vibration monitoring. Ongoing training is always paid for by the company. My ambitions are to become a fully qualified occupational hygienist within the next three years and then, in the distant future, divisional manager.

What do you enjoy about your job?

It's great not having a nine to five office job and I love that fact that I'm always at different sites, all over the country, meeting different people and undertaking different tests. The company car and overtime payments are great, too.

What are the most challenging parts of your job?

I would say the long hours, particularly driving, early starts and late finishes. It's often quite a dirty and hands-on job as well, so I can see why it's not for everyone.

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

Get a relevant degree and some experience of health and safety or environmental management at any site as it looks fantastic on your CV when you get to an interview. I think in this profession experience is perhaps more beneficial than qualifications.

Find out more

See what's on offer at the British Occupational Hygiene Society (BOHS) and the Environmental Scientifics Group (ESG).