A Health and Safety Career
From Starting Out to Becoming Chartered
Former SHEilds student Gary Webster who became a SHEilds employee describes a Health and Safety career, from starting out to becoming chartered.
I suppose the foundations of Health and Safety were planted within me when I served in the Army. I was a PTI (Physical Training Instructor) in charge of the daily fitness and Well-Being of a group of soldiers. I was also part of an artillery gun detachment and quickly learned the importance of discipline and safety measures to reduce serious risks.
Having left the army, I tried my hand in various jobs (mainly due to five redundancies). The list included: logistics, quarries, retail, distribution, engineering, etc. Although I didn’t appreciate it at the time, the change of employment gave me a good education in adapting to different working environments and difficult circumstances; it gave me a broad outlook on hazardous activities and good (and poor) practices.
The Best Approach
I spent 12 years working for an engineering company and during the last 3 years of this period I was elected to become one of the companies’ Health and Safety reps. I did some union based Health and Safety courses, which gave me a basic understanding, but I wanted more in-depth knowledge and having researched some course providers, I found SHEilds Ltd could offer me a course via e-learning as I could not afford to have time off work and this seemed the best approach due to the flexibility.
I enrolled on the IOSH Managing Safely course and the NEBOSH General Certificate. I found all the staff and tutors very helpful and nothing was ever too much for them.
Just before I was to make arrangements for my NEBOSH exam, I was made redundant and so the ‘work’ cycle commenced again.
I applied for several jobs within the Health and Safety field. I had no success, but kept on working, applying and studying as well as finding time for my family and the gym!
I gained further qualifications in NEBOSH Fire, Construction and a NEBOSH Environmental Diploma and started getting a few interviews. Here I discovered the ‘Catch 22’ criteria, as I had the qualifications, but not the experience – “give me a chance” I would say under my breath!
In order to gain some experience I helped a local Health and Safety manager do some duties on two of his sites, totally in a volunteer capacity with no payment, but it ticked the box for experience.
I was getting closer to employment within my chosen field, that close I renamed myself ‘silver’ because I started getting to the second interview and kept coming second!
Eventually, in my late 40’s I was offered employment as a SHEQ Coordinator for a chemical manufacturer on a three month trial. After 6 weeks I was told to forget the 3 month probation period as the job was mine. Having worked in two sites, I then became aware of a position as a tutor within the SHEilds Ltd group.
A Happy, Friendly Atmosphere
I declined an increase in salary to move to this new position. I can honestly say that this was really a dream job for me, the best since leaving the army and although it was a 2 hour round trip, it was a pleasure to work for a brilliant company. SHEilds Ltd has a happy, family atmosphere, but very professional. I had gone from student to tutor and learnt so much from my fellow tutors – Emma Wiles and Will Taylor. They were very knowledgeable, professional and helpful. Emma was the best manager I have ever had.
Having spent a considerable and happy time with SHEilds Ltd, I was then approached by an engineering company to become their HSE manager. I was more than happy at my role with SHEilds Ltd, but I believed I had to take the opportunity and raise my sights for the many challenges ahead.
Having left SHEilds Ltd with a heavy heart, I focused on my new role, which did not disappoint me in the many challenges, but I am pleased to say progress has been made and it will always be on going.
I have now gained Chartership status in my chosen field and really believe if you want something badly enough and you put the effort in, it will arrive. I got through my studies by giving it 100%, sometimes working 12 hours a day, 7 days a week and finding time for my wife, two sons, friends and parents.
You can get the balance right by adapting and it doesn’t matter how old you are, because your life skills can become an advantage.