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August 1, 2022

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‘The health and safety role has also evolved so quickly,’ in conversation with Mark Cardnell

Mark Cardnell (CFIOSH, FIIRSM, FinstLM, AIFireE) is an international award-winning health and safety practitioner and who is recognised as a leading authority in supporting organisations in transitional change, management systems and behavioural safety. In this article Mark works through some lessons learnt from his own career path to share with the wider community.

Mark writes:

Mark Cardnell 10 Downing StI think we can all relate to how time passes so quickly particularly as you get older! I look back even now at some 30 years plus working in the health and safety arena and I cannot believe not only how the time passes so quickly, but as importantly how the health and safety role has also evolved so quickly.

Personally, I have always welcomed change; I enjoy change and I have always been able to adopt to change. I understand and fully except that some people find change challenging and disruptive but as organisations adapt to the “new norm” after COVID for example, and they modify their respective structures, the role of the health and safety professional will most certainly be as important as ever and one that will be very much subjected to this evolutional change even further. I used the terminology “after COVID” – maybe I am being a little hasty on that subject with COVID infection rates are on the rise again according to national news outlets?

I have been incredibility lucky to have had the opportunity to work alongside some of the most prestige organisations in the country. Each has brought its very own unique and sometimes complex demands, but as importantly each one has left a positive impression on me. It is not always a direct noticeable impact, but sometimes one I have looked back to and then realised what I have learnt from the experience.

Personal fulfilment

In 2017 I joined the IIRSM mentoring scheme as a mentor and welcomed the opportunity to work with a gentleman who has now successfully progressed to IOSH Chartered status and who now holds a very important role within Central Government. From our first meeting I was aware of his enthusiasm to understand health and safety from the foundation level and already understood his strengths and as importantly recognised his weaknesses. This enabled him to embrace the learning opportunities on offer from many different areas. He spoke to me on many occasions about health and safety was being seen as a “tick box” process and how he felt personally rewarded where he was able to use the learning to develop and implement sensible, constructive and methodical approaches for the benefit of everyone.

I feel this is an effective first lesson – that personal fulfilment is the first key element to success and how behaviour and positive leadership are instrumental throughout the whole process.

I believe, for me, every role I have ever undertaken has brought something new. The continuous developed element is most definitely required – there is always something new to learn and experience within health and safety. I don’t believe you can know everything. The field of health and safety is too vast a spectrum for that. However, one real positive change I have witnessed is a more willingness to share, materials, knowledge, experience and most importantly time and passion. The mentoring programs, webinars, free on-line training and accreditation bodies are great example of this.

Learning and development

It is an important part of health and safety to transpose information and assist others in their career paths. Everyone needs a little support and the opportunity to develop at some point in time. I respect the fact I couldn’t have achieved what I have without the fantastic support I received over the years.

This is lesson number two. Help and assistance has many forms, from a simple direction to mentoring and beyond. This sharing of experience, knowledge and personal support has many positive advantages including mental health, general life expectations and communications skills as examples.

I am always amazed at where my work continues to take me – throughout Facilities Maintenance, Finance and Banking, Leisure, NHS-Healthcare, Military, Construction, Retail, Engineering, Logistics, Education, Government services, Local/Central Government and enforcement support and beyond. Each sector has its own ways of working and working across such muti-disciplines provides a fantastic opportunity over time to brings the learning from all these organisations and people into my passion of designing and implementing health and safety systems and processes that make health and safety easier to understand, be cost effective and enhance the real outcome of keeping people safe, enthusiastic, respected and positively engaged.

Understand the organisation

Lesson number three. Never take it for granted that it will be a specific individual or group that observes your work. I can assure you if your work is visually stimulating, legally correct and interesting the world will be watching.

Health and safety management systems can sometimes be generic in their format and not fully cater for the specific requirements of the organisation or its people. I recall a quote noted to me some years ago – “Not everyone is right-handed”!

I think it is important to fully understand the organisation, its people and its direction before implementing systems and processes to ensure that the most effective delivery and output can be achieved. We now have so much more choice in our lives than ever before, so methodical research to finding the right solution is time well spent. Just because something works for others is no guarantee it will work for you. I would like to think we are a world away from the copy, cut and paste days!

Data management

One area that has most certainly been a success for me is the development of data management (health and safety) information into dashboards. Dashboards are not a new concept but do provide the opportunity to display health and safety information in both word, numeral and pictorial formats.

My first ever dashboard back in 2015 was developed using what I thought was a very basic knowledge of Microsoft Excel. This dashboard due to its in-depth content and presentational format was noted by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) in a healthcare site inspection report as “An Outstanding Practice”. As my personal skills and knowledge have progressed so have the dashboards and their development has been called upon through many organisations including Central Government.

My first dashboard management system was nominated in the International Institute of Risk and Safety Management – IIRSM Risk Excellence Awards 2018 and was followed by the nomination in the 2019 awards for “Mentor of the Year” – for supporting individual competence for members to develop their own dashboard management systems. Success was also displayed in the IIRSM 2020 awards where some of the dashboards were used in the winning entry to the Health and Safety Wellbeing Strategy by the Cabinet Office.


Lesson three. There is always room for enhancements. Keeping systems and processes updated maybe time consuming, but it is worth the investment. It’s not just legislation and best practice – people change, environments change, and organisational structures change for example.

The Healthcare sector is one specific area that has continually provided me with the greatest challengers but through the dedication and respect displayed by the people who continue to support us in some of the darkest times of our lives it has also been the most rewarding sector to contribute to. Healthcare has opened so many doors for me personally. Within this article I have mentioned some keys points noting support, dedication, respect, teamwork, research, individual and group involvement, mental health and continued personal development. All these key phases have been instrumental to effective working in this arena and have required the knowledge gained from other sectors to make this requirement work so well.

Skills and knowledge

Lesson four. I believe it takes a lot of cross pollination of skills and knowledge to enhance a sector. Sector specific knowledge should be the foundation stone, but the inputting of other wider knowledge and experience enhances the process even further.

My charity contribution gives me great pleasure to provide something back to the wider community who are under huge pressures with the “cost of living crisis”, health issues and general life demands as examples. Mental health I expect to be the new pandemic and should not be considered an individual crisis.

I hope that new members entering the health and safety profession can quickly see that it is not all just examinations and certificates, but one of seeking the experience and working knowledge and enhancing the personal skills to engage, develop, respect and implement and being and supporting ownership, leadership and accountability at all levels.

Recent recognition

SHP – Top-25 Most Influential Figures in health and safety.

IIRSM – Risk Management Nominations.

DHSC – COVID unsung hero.

ROSPA – Covid Workplace Champion.

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