Head Of Training, SHP Online

July 5, 2016

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Rising Stars winner offers advice to other young professionals

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SHP’s Lauren Applebey speaks to Rising Stars in Health and Safety award winner for 2016, James Eastham, about his route into the profession and how it feels to win this award.

James Eastham’s passion for construction was evident as he gained a BTEC with the Eric Wright Learning Foundation and became the first apprentice Joiner to be directly employed with the Eric Wright Group from the Eric Wright Learning Foundation. Not long after James completed his apprenticeship, his work was soon put on hold following a serious health diagnosis. Due to his talent and experience in the construction industry an opportunity arose for career development within the Health and Safety Team.

Being a natural communicator on site and with his enthusiasm for health and safety, his progression has resulted in James becoming the winner of the Rising Stars In Health & Safety Award 2016. He has also received a Construction Development Alliance accolade and was a finalist for the Duke of Gloucester Awards Scheme, which celebrates exceptional young professionals. James has also been put forward for Young Builder of the Year.

Congratulations on your award, how did you feel when you found out you had won?

I was shocked and overwhelmed because of the number and quality of the other finalists.

How did you start out in health and safety?

I was given the opportunity for a new career path after ill health and medical advice prevented me continuing a manual labour job. I always had a keen interest in health and safety. When I was an apprentice the health and safety advisor was inspirational in how he dealt with people and difficult situations in a knowledgeable and professional manner.

At 24, you have already achieved a lot in your career. What have done to ensure you have progressed so quickly?

I am an avid listener and fed off the individual styles within the team to develop my own approach to health and safety. I also have the added bonus of just coming off the tools, so I know how the lads on site think.

Gaining confidence and knowledge of H&S legislation and company procedures I was determined to be the H&S advisor for my own sites. I now advise 4 long term projects in the construction side of the business and various short term projects for the Utilities side of the Group.

Being enthusiastic to learn, I have completed my NEBOSH General & Construction certificates and have just embarked on my Diploma. I have been tireless in my approach and I set myself goals and targets to ensure I am always improving and progressing.

 

Be consistent in your approach, embrace any feedback from the workforce and give them a voice. You can achieve so much more and develop empathy towards people if you’ve walked a mile in their shoes.

 

You have overcome many hurdles personally to get where you are now, can you tell us a bit more about that?

In 2012 I was suddenly diagnosed with renal failure, commonly known as kidney failure.

This had a big impact on my life. Unable to continue with a manual labour job, I was left wondering what career path to take. I outlined my interest in health and safety to HR and got the full support of the company and directors to embark on my new career.

In work what do you find most challenging day-to-day and what do you find most rewarding?

There are so many complex personalities, trades and nationalities on site, which can often be set in their ways, which can make it challenging to ensure all individuals follow the correct procedures and safety guidance.

I get involved in a project at the early stages so I can influence and lay down the foundations for health and safety and then continually contribute as it evolves.

Do you think health and safety is changing, and in what ways?

Definitely so and there’s often difficult conversations to be had. There’s a much more positive culture towards health and safety and the benefits it brings. Technology is also changing the way we operate, even in health and safety, by improving processes and procedures.

What do you think makes a good leader?

A great motivator and communicator that trusts their team, responds to individual needs and embraces diversity. It’s also someone that sets clear goals and assists the team by making sure they understand why these are important and how they can be achieved.

Would you recommend health and safety as a career for other young people?

Definitely! It’s interesting, rewarding and every day is different. It also combines so many disciplines from psychology to law.

If you were giving advice to someone just entering the profession, what would it be?

Having experienced a live site as I did through gaining a trade gives you a better understanding of how things work, whilst developing team working and communication skills.

Be consistent in your approach, embrace any feedback from the workforce and give them a voice. You can achieve so much more and develop empathy towards people if you’ve walked a mile in their shoes.

Although you can never be too ambitious, you must remember that in order to achieve your goals you must be patient in learning your profession, have a plan of where you want to go, what you need to do and who to get advice from on your journey.

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