Why Health and Safety is important to me

Why Health and Safety is important to me

An experienced oil industry health and safety professional’s view of the importance of health and safety

Good health and safety standards are crucial in all industries. However, they are vital in high-risk sectors such as the oil industry. As an experienced safety professional immersed in the complexities of the oil sector, I have witnessed first-hand the critical importance of having robust health and safety standards and management.

The oil industry operates in an environment with inherent hazards and risks. The handling and processing of flammable and toxic materials carries the ever-present threat of catastrophic accidents such as fire, explosion, and exposure to toxic materials. These are well-regulated by law, the refinery being a top-tier site under the UK COMAH Regulations. I believe this is not the main reason for implementing robust  standards in the workplace. Employers have a moral responsibility for the safety of their workers and others (such as contractors and members of the public). I was truly fortunate to work for an organisation that took its moral duties very seriously.

My first 12 years as a professional

The first twelve years of my career were spent as a process operator in a large refinery. During which, I experienced an incident that hit home the importance of health and safety in any industry. I was a young operator on a process plant with a problem requiring maintenance work. The problem involved a maintenance fitter breaking into a vertical piece of pipework which had contained sulphuric acid. As I made the permit out, I was about to specify a full PVC suit, PVC gloves and full-face visor. The (very experienced) fitter ‘persuaded’ me that goggles were sufficient for the task (he was already wearing ‘acid proof’ overalls and PVC gloves). As the fitter broke into the pipe, residual pressure sprayed acid out over the fitter’s face. He suffered minor facial burns. The goggles undoubtedly saved his eyesight. It was a lesson that I never forgot. The thought of someone losing their sight because I allowed my judgment to be overruled stayed with me (and hopefully served me well) for the rest of my career.

A change in my Career

On completion of my oil industry career, I moved into health and safety training, delivering NEBOSH, IOSH and bespoke courses. I found this extremely rewarding as I could relate and share with the learners many of my real-life experiences – good and bad! Comments like

‘I came on this health and safety course expecting to be bored – boy was I wrong!’

‘The tutor’s ability to relate the course materials to their real-life experiences certainly made the subject matter stick’

May suggest that my tutoring style was having some impact on my learners.

I was always of the view that engaging learners by allowing them to connect theoretical knowledge with real-life scenarios enabled them to gain a deeper understanding of the potential consequences of neglecting health and safety.

In my time as a professional in the oil sector, my primary concern was the welfare of individuals. Working in a safe and healthy work environment protects individuals from injury and ill health and, just as importantly, promotes their physical and mental health.


I actively tried to play my part in developing and maintaining a good safety culture within the organisation. Achieving this included:

  • Good leadership – I had a positive working relationship with our Chief Executives, who took their responsibility for health and safety very seriously and played their part in developing and maintaining a good health and safety culture in our organisation.
  • Management System – A system designed to meet the requirements of (then) OHSAS 18001 was the cornerstone of our efforts to not only maintain but to improve our health and safety performance continuously.
  • Line Management – Line management responsibility for health, safety, and environmental matters (not the health and safety professional) was well enshrined in our organisation’s philosophy. I was always ready and available to assist line management in discharging their responsibilities.
  • Contractors – were integrated into health and safety on the site. They passed a strict evaluation (that I reviewed) before working on-site and were then expected to meet the same standards as our workforce.
  • Consultation excellence – There were regular health and safety meetings at every level in the refinery (department, site, contractors). Our workforce health and safety representatives were well trained (up to the level of NEBOSH General Certificate) and were incredibly positive and proactive in performing their duties.

A summary of my time within the industry

Achieving good standards in any industry is not just about complying with the law. My experiences as a safety professional have reinforced the notion that investing in health and safety pays dividends not only in terms of personnel well-being and environmental protection but also in terms of improving employee morale, which can lead to increased production, improved reputation (with the community, and with stakeholders, and regulators), and delivering overall business success.

Start your health and safety training today with one of our qualifications!