Assistant Editor , SHP

July 26, 2023

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“At Arsenal F.C. my role is dynamic and diverse…why not do something that makes a difference?”

In a new series for SHP, we speak to professionals working in or around health and safety to start conversations that go beyond the day job, sharing individuals’ challenges and ideas for the profession. In this article, SHP’s Rhianna Sexton speaks to Jaspreet (Jas) Sekhon, Health and Safety Manager at Arsenal Football Club (F.C.), about encouraging others into health and safety.

SHP: Hi Jas, could you tell me about yourself, how did you get into health and safety and your role at Arsenal F.C.?

Jaspreet (Jas) Sekhon, Health and Safety Manager at Arsenal Football Club.

Jaspreet Sekhon (JS): After completing university, I set my sights on working in marketing and took on my first role in a small startup.

There was a lot to get involved in and after volunteering to help put together a fire plan with an agency – well you can say it was love at first sight!

I really enjoyed it, so from there I self-funded my studies into health and safety to discover more of what this arena had to offer. Once qualified, I set forward with my passion to gather experience. I’ve been lucky to have worked in a variety of diverse roles, from manufacturing, consulting, policing and now for Arsenal F.C.

When we have matches, sometimes I look up at the stadium and can’t believe I work here. Health and safety may have a reputation for being boring, but there’s never a dull moment.

The industry is changing, and we’re working hard to rebrand health and safety as an enabler, not a hindrance. At Arsenal, my role is dynamic and diverse.

I work with different departments with talented teams across grounds keeping, the Academy, the community hub, and retail to name a few. There’s always something new to learn and I love the variety.

I’ve always wanted to have a job that made a difference, and I found that within this role.

My role at Arsenal continuously pushes me to learn and is all about working collaboratively with others across the club.

SHP: How was the COVID pandemic for you, were you put into the spotlight as a HS professional?

JS: As a health and safety professional, usually our first goal is to win over hearts and minds and get the leadership team on side.

COVID was a ‘careful what you wish for’ situation as the tables were turned. Suddenly, we had a seat at the table and had to deal with new challenges.

Alamy Stock-Emirates Arsenal Stadium-23

Emirates Stadium. Credit: Alamy Stock

I had just started my role with the club but there was no time for onboarding, my knowledge was indeed tested to its limits, it was a steep learning curve, but it was a case of recognising that no one knew what to expect, it was about coming together and trying to ensure we could operate as safe as possible as football continued.

Although the pandemic was a stressful time, it was great how everyone came together, I had amazing support from health and safety professionals from across stadia via the British Safety Council Sector group. Together we learned to navigate government guidance and ensure safe operations.

Internally at the club, each department really pulled together, and we worked in solidarity through the unprecedented times.

Moving forward, I aim to continually demonstrate the value of health and safety and maintain our seat at the table to support all in understanding and managing risks and keeping everyone safe while they are at work.

SHP: What’s your workload like; do you always have a lot to deal with at the same time?

JS: My workload is never the same. I start the day with a plan, but it often changes as higher priority items come up. Being based at the stadium, there’s always something happening, from construction projects to events. As a health and safety professional, you need to be flexible and switch gears quickly.

My role centres more around strategic side and focusing on making sure my team supporting departments and aiding the change in proactive health and safety. No hour is ever the same.

SHP: Why would a young person want to have a career in health and safety?

JS: I remember being asked this question back when I worked for the police service. One of the senior officers jokingly asked; “So, when you were in school, surrounded by kids dreaming of becoming police officers or superheroes, when did you decide, ‘I want to work in health and safety’?”

I guess health and safety isn’t seen as the most exciting profession, however it can offer many opportunities for specialisation and transferable skills. It helps you develop emotional intelligence and softer skills.

The job requires adaptability and there’s a growing focus on a more collaborative approach and It’s an exciting and engaging field. One day, you could be inspecting internal sites, and the next day, you might be conducting a personal assessment or visiting external locations.

The value of strong health and safety practices is immense. It protects lives, enhances productivity, reduces costs, ensures compliance, improves morale, maintains a positive reputation, and manages risks for business continuity.

SHP: What advice would you give your younger self?

JS: I believe everything happens for a reason, so it’s a tough question. There were times when I would get frustrated because I wasn’t progressing in my career as quickly as I wanted to.

Now, I understand the value and importance of experience and learning from it. Looking back, I could have benefited from a mentor to offer guidance, but I was fortunate enough to have had great managers who invested in me, and helped me develop, which is why now I try to do the same as a manager.

My advice would be to have goals to work towards, but also take your time and embrace the learning journey and the value of experience.

SHP: What advice would you give a young person starting their career too?

JS: I do really enjoy my job, it’s important to find a job that excites you and makes a difference because you’ll be spending a lot of time at work. Don’t hesitate to ask for help or admit when you don’t understand something, especially in health and safety where guessing is not an option. Networking is key, build relationships and collaborate with subject experts to find solutions.

Speak up if something doesn’t feel right.

Cultivate good relationships where people feel comfortable approaching you. Be open to informal chats and problem-solving. Don’t judge others, focus on fixing the issue and preventing it from happening again. Once you help someone in that way, they’ll come to you proactively. It’s all about building relationships and working together.

The Safety Conversation Podcast: Listen now!

The Safety Conversation with SHP (previously the Safety and Health Podcast) aims to bring you the latest news, insights and legislation updates in the form of interviews, discussions and panel debates from leading figures within the profession.

Find us on Apple Podcasts, Spotify and Google Podcasts, subscribe and join the conversation today!

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