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January 17, 2017

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Sellafield

Career case study: Jamie Sutherland-Pownall, Sellafield Ltd

Jamie Sutherland-Pownall tells SHP about how he has achieved an MSc in OSH, CMIOSH status, been elected to IOSH Council and landed his dream job at Sellafield – all by 25.

jspI am currently an Occupational health and safety Specialist for Sellafield Ltd, responsible for assuring project engineering and design safety as well as the conventional safety aspects associated with large scale engineering and construction works.

I initially studied to become a Biomedical scientist at university but during my last year started to lean towards health and safety as a potential future career. This stemmed from laboratory safety, the impact of work on health and how risks, in the clinical arena, were managed and controlled. From that point on, everything I have done has been to develop and shape my career in health and safety, culminating in me undertaking an MSc in OSH in 2013-14. The MSc was instrumental in my career development. A blended learning approach, with theory alongside practical application allowed me to both learn about legislation, risk management and hazard identification to name a few, but also get out and about in a variety of settings to put my learning into practice.

Moving on from studies and into the world of work was I found an easy transition, helped by the MSc learning style. To date I’ve experienced a variety of highs and lows in reaching my current professional level. Personally, achieving CMIOSH, being elected to IOSH Council and working for Sellafield are certainly the high points I like to reflect on, and all by 25. In terms of lows and stumbling blocks – I think there are two distinct points. One being my age – I’ve had the ‘you’re too young to be in safety’ comments, and two being experience; the latter being most troublesome.

From conducting an audit of a supported living care home on the Friday, by Monday I was undertaking safety assessments for Europe’s largest Nuclear site.

I now have a fair few years behind me but I worry for the profession. If we want to attract more people to safety, then we need to ensure they are exposed to a breadth of industries and working practices early on in their careers. I found volunteering my time and asking to shadow OSH professionals has certainly paid dividends in securing the roles I have, but employers need to be much more appreciative of the fact that OSH professionals need to start somewhere and will undoubtedly learn as they go.

 

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With my career to date being quite varied, and with a breadth of roles behind me, I’ve had a few interesting moments and others which have changed the way I see the world we live in. I think an interesting career moment was being taken on by Sellafield Ltd. I had gone from a health and social care company to the nuclear industry in the space of a weekend. From conducting an audit of a supported living care home on the Friday, by Monday I was undertaking safety assessments for Europe’s largest Nuclear site. I’m not sure how many people can say they have been able to make such a switch in industries whilst in the same profession, but it highlights just how transferable the skills OSH professionals hold can be and how applicable they are across a variety of settings.

Being elected to IOSH Council this year as well as acting as a peer reviewer for chartership candidates is also an interesting step that my personal and professional development has taken. I’m very keen to see OSH become a much more forward thinking and modernistic profession, and if I can help in achieving that then I will retire (in 50 years!) a happy man.

Working in the nuclear sector I have the benefit of experiencing health and safety from a variety of coal faces. Those not in the industry have sometimes commented that it can be a bureaucratic or slow industry, but from my perspective of managing health and safety on projects, very few days are slow and there isn’t the time for bureaucracy! We have some of the most talented engineers and designers in the UK working for Sellafield and there is nothing better than being able to work alongside such individuals day to day. We want to achieve a common goal in the small team I work in – that safety is designed in and hazards are designed out – something that can only be achieved through the collaboration between us in safety and our colleagues in design.

I’m very keen to see OSH become a much more forward thinking and modernistic profession, and if I can help in achieving that then I will retire a happy man.

Having only been in the profession a relatively short space of time compared to some professionals in the industry, I have come in to it with an open mind and fresh ideas. I think the profession needs to be much more open and transparent in what it is trying to achieve. We need not be seen as those that stop or inhibit, but those that enable and try to find safe ways of getting things done. Accepting of some risk in order to get a job done and reduce overall ‘big risks’, something commonplace in the nuclear industry, is one such example of this way of thinking. With a need to train, recruit and develop a new wave of safety professionals likely over the next 20-30 years, now is the time to make clear what OSH is, why we strive for excellence within it and how we can go about achieving such in a pragmatic way.

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Well done Jamie, an inspirational story.