Assistant Editor, SHP & IFSEC Global

April 14, 2022

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SHP Meets

‘It doesn’t matter if you’re female or male, have one years’ experience or 10, it’s your expertise and knowledge that people are interested in,’ SHP meets Cindy Bell

SHP speaks to Cindy Bell, who was named both SHP’s Rising Star in Manufacturing and Rising Star UK in December, about her unconventional journey into health and safety, her reaction to winning, not one, but two of SHP’s Rising Star awards, and what advice she would give to others looking to carve a successful career in the profession. 

Cindy Bell

Cindy Bell is the Safety, Health and Environmental (SHE) Advisor for Greggs PLC. Based in the North region, Cindy provides SHE advice and support for both the Manufacturing and Logistics teams at Balliol Park – the centre of excellence for sausage rolls, pasties and Gosforth Bakery – one of the UK’s largest doughnut plants.

She is also a Technical Member of IOSH at present, having previously been a member of the IOSH Future Leaders Steering Group in 2019-2020.

Click here to listen to this interview in full…

With so many achievements under her belt already, it’s hard to believe that health and safety wasn’t initially a part of Cindy’s career plan.

At university, Cindy studied Town Planning, where she gained sufficient knowledge relating to policy and compliance. Once graduated, Cindy struggled to find a graduate position in the field, so applied for an admin role at a construction company to gain some professional experience.

“When I attended the interview, my manager saw potential in me. My degree had already equipped me with a strong background in policy, procedure and enforcement, so I was offered the role of HSQE administrator instead.

“I then completed multiple health and safety qualifications and progressed to H&S Coordinator after one year.”

During her time in construction, Cindy witnessed gender inequality on a daily basis, triggering an internal experience of imposter syndrome, something she occasionally still battles with, and is eager to help others overcome.

“I remember joining meetings and being the only woman at the table. To begin with it was quite daunting, I would often just sit there in silence, but once I got to know people my confidence grew.

“I’ve come to realise that it doesn’t matter if you’re female or male, have one years’ experience or 10, it’s your expertise and knowledge that people are interested in.

“You are your biggest barrier, sometimes it’s all in your head. People want to hear your input, the more you voice your opinion the easier it will become.”

In 2019, Cindy was offered the role of SHE Advisor at British bakery chain, Greggs.

“When I got offered the role, I was absolutely ecstatic, I was so excited about the experience I would gain from being a SHE Advisor at Greggs.

“The company has exposed me to a wide variety of working environments from manufacturing and logistics to retail, and I’ve been provided with ample opportunities to learn and continue to develop my skills and knowledge.

“I also really enjoy working on different projects. I get to engage with colleagues from different functions which is great for developing my soft skills.”

In December, Cindy named as the winner of both SHP’s Rising Star in Manufacturing, and Rising Star UK awards.

Speaking on her reaction to the win, Cindy says: “I was very shocked, on the day of the announcement I had quite a lot of meetings lined up, so my other half had to get my attention between meetings to tell me. I remember him saying ‘Cindy, do you realise you’ve won an award? Not just one but two!’ I couldn’t believe it, I’m really, really grateful and happy.

“I feel so honoured to have been presented alongside all the fellow finalists and want to say a huge thank you to my manager, Scott Irwin, he nominated me for the award and, following the win, he shared the big news with all my colleagues at both sites and with board members also. It’s a memory I will cherish for a long time.”

Sharing her advice for anyone considering a career in health and safety, Cindy says: “Be yourself. Don’t be afraid. It’s not always going around telling people what they should or shouldn’t do, it’s more about figuring out how we can work together going forward.

“Health and safety is not just a profession, it’s a community, don’t be afraid to reach out to other professionals, there will always be somebody to help you.

“If you enjoy working with people, you like being challenged and have a passion for compliance, health and safety is for you.” 

Manual handling? Don’t do it until you have risk assessed!

Hear Cindy speak about tips to help you get started on a manual handling risk assessment and share real-life solutions to manual handling challenges, in this SHP webinar.

Click here to sign up on-demand.

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