Health & Safety Manager

July 27, 2021

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return to work

The health and safety role is changing… again!

Rachel Butler, Head of Health, Safety and Risk at Bruntwood, looks back over the last year-and-a-half and explores how her role has changed and how she has adapted to those changes.

Rachel ButlerWe all felt the shift when soft skills became a recognised strength working in the industry, and clipboards became a thing of the past.

Wellbeing was no longer a buzzword, but actually something people became proud to talk about.

I’m Rachel Butler Head of Health, Safety and Risk at Bruntwood, and I wanted to share some experiences that will hopefully prove useful for those working within a smaller or medium organisation, with an aim to get feedback from others so that we can establish common ground and know that we as safety professionals are experiencing the same things, as well as share our thoughts to get through some of our most recent challenges as an industry.

In this short article I would like to talk about how we handle this new change and transition. For many, the last 12-18 months has been one made up of furlough (arguably a word we had never even heard of until events of late) or working from home – which again for many is a totally new thing, one that either presents challenges and causes stress, or one which people have embraced.

Either way, with the restrictions now easing – we are experiencing people coming back to workplaces, which in itself presents its challenges.

Return to work

As leaders and businesses, we must have the right infrastructure in place to support these people. Remember that time when you took a two-week holiday and came back barely remembering what you do at work?!

People must be reminded that there are other risks and here’s how to help them:

  • Go back to basics – Are you inducting, or re-inducting, your colleagues as they return? Walking and talking, remembering exit routes and how to report incidents.
    • Have their working dynamics changed and is there anything you can do to support that?
    • DSE assessments
  • Remind people of the COVID-19 risk assessments – talk them through it, coach people to lead by example and be respectful of others at all times
  • Signpost people to the right places– We all know everyone has their own personal story with this pandemic, are we fully equipped to support this?

Supporting colleagues

I’d now like to flip the switch and hopefully resonate with those who have stayed in work, particularly those on the ground, be it the health & safety manager or part of the operational team on the ground.

Industries such as construction have carried on working and again – these people require our support. Many have been working under strict conditions and have had to completely alter their mindset, workplaces have been so different, and guidelines have been ever changing. For many, they are experiencing the ‘burnout’ and just as people are returning, they are probably the closest they have ever been to needing a break.

A positive to come out of the pandemic is the obvious; people are more mindful of each other, and all I ask of our teams (who already do it really well) is to be considerate of one another.

Health and safety teams make sure you spot the signs: as people are returning so are some of the minor preventable accidents and incidents, we fought so hard to overcome over the last few years. Get ahead of the curve, and to prevent this give your people a voice and empower them with communication to let you know something is not quite right.

Businesses, remember your support functions need support too!

Like I said at the start of this article, I’m really keen to hear your thoughts and collectively, as an industry share best practice and learn from one another. Please share some of your thoughts and experiences in the comments below…


What makes us susceptible to burnout?

In this episode of the Safety & Health Podcast, ‘Burnout, stress and being human’, Heather Beach is joined by Stacy Thomson to discuss burnout, perfectionism and how to deal with burnout as an individual, as management and as an organisation.

Subscribe and tune in the Safety & Health Podcast to discover the latest issues facing the health and safety profession, and stay on-top of the developments affecting your role, from working at height, lone working and common workplace hazards, to safety culture, behaviours, occupational health and mental health and wellbeing.


About Bruntwood

Bruntwood has been creating thriving cities for over forty years and is deeply connected with the cities it operates in.  It plays a pivotal role in creating vibrant places and unlocking economic potential. In 2018, Bruntwood became the UK’s first commercial property company to join the net-zero carbon building commitment.

Employing over 800 people, Bruntwood has over £1.4bn in assets and more than 100 properties across Manchester, Leeds, Liverpool and Birmingham. It provides everything from coworking space and meeting rooms to serviced, managed and leased offices

Bruntwood SciTech, a 50:50 joint venture with Legal & General is the UK’s largest property portfolio dedicated to the growth of the science and technology sector. Valued at £438m with a total of 1.6m sq ft, it is set to create over 20,000 jobs over the next decade.

Bruntwood Works creates, owns and manages inspiring environments, delivering everything from individual coworking desks and meeting rooms to fully managed offices in superb locations to help businesses thrive and grow. It provides expert support at every stage of the business journey and offers access to leading wellness, retail and leisure facilities.

Bruntwood believes in sustainable cities for people to work and live; each year together with the Oglesby Charitable Trust donating 10% of distributable profits to local arts and community causes.

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Sarah Prince
Sarah Prince
1 month ago

I like the back to basics approach. I also think rapport has been lost over the last 18 months, from those coffee machine and corridor chats, so leadership engagement needs reenergising again.

Clare Forshaw
Clare Forshaw
1 month ago

back to basics love it and something easily overlooked great article!