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August 8, 2010

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Andy Linkham – How did I get here?

How did you get into health and safety?

I fell into the role. I was in a project engineering department of a chemical company, and the incumbent safety advisor was chemically biased, so the department wanted someone with construction knowledge to support safety. Two years of evening classes later I was department safety advisor.

What qualifications do you hold?

I have a HND in mechanical and production engineering from Liverpool Polytechnic (John Moores University),  and studied both the NEBOSH Certificate and the Diploma at evening courses at Wirral Metropolitan College.
Which aspects of your health and safety role do you most enjoy?

Necessity is the mother of invention, so creative problem solving is what I enjoy most. The engineer in me will not let go; accidents are the results of process upsets – when machines run well people do not get put at risk. I enjoy many parts of my role and particularly the support of my colleagues within the company. I have carried out training in the USA and throughout Europe, and I have great respect for the audience who understand, despite being trained in a foreign language.

What have been the highest and lowest points of your career so far?

One high point was being recognised by my peers in the organisation and joining the North Atlantic sector safety group. It meant developing standards and processes to be adopted across North America and Europe. The meetings took place in the US and a low point was arriving at 2pm one day to find out that the meeting started at 8am local time and I had failed to make the adjustment in my online diary!

What has been the biggest change in health and safety since you have been working in it?

One mini-revolution in the paper industry has been the guarding of machinery. When I started in the industry the machines were completely unguarded, so the Making Paper Safely process was truly significant. Now the industry is considered as any other line-manufacturing process.

What do you think will be the biggest developments in the next 10 years?

Globalisation of safety standards. Having collaborated with colleagues across the pond I have seen how engineers in the US like to follow EN standards because they like the way they are written. Once we get past the “not invented here” issue the EN standards become global.

If you were prime minister for a day, which health and safety law(s) would you introduce, or repeal?

I would not focus on adding or deleting laws but instead support the HSE role in collaboration and enforcement where this fails. We have enough laws, but they need to be policed better to assist the innocent and punish the guilty. The HSE provides excellent free advice, and inviting them on site to discuss how we can improve has been invaluable.

How do you capitalise on your IOSH membership?  

I attend the branch meetings and training events. Fortunately for me the Merseyside branch has some very good training sessions. They represent great value and you always learn something new. I often take colleagues to build their competence and expand their horizons outside our factory gate.

What are your two pieces of advice on getting a job in health and safety?

Firstly, try to match your existing talents to a role. Ideally, take the health and safety step after working in a different position, as this gives you an advantage over those without that experience. Secondly, never stop learning!

Who has had the biggest impact on your career, and how?

Margaret Thatcher, because if I had been taken on as an apprentice from school I would have stayed in a trade. As it was I was not craft-skilled but had an engineering HND. I started work as a technical clerk, got bored, and went back to night school and learned Autocad. Then I was a draughtsman/engineer, got bored of that, and so back to night school for my NEBOSH Certificate, followed by the Diploma. This role is so varied that I don’t think I will get bored any time soon!

If you could be anything other than a health and safety practitioner, what job would you choose?

Pilot officer in the RAF – or failing that, something in teaching, as I enjoy training so much.

Andy Linkham
2000 – present Site safety advisor, Kimberly-Clark, Flint site
1991 – 2000 Technical clerk/CAD operator/project engineer, Warwick International (Chemical) Mostyn
1990 – 1991 Production coordinator, Feedwater Treatment Services, Moreton
1989 – 1990
Junior project engineer, McTay Engineering, Bromborough


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