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August 9, 2010

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John Berrisford – How did I get here?

How did you get into health and safety?

My father-in-law had a near-fatal accident at work in the early 1980s and from then on I vowed to advocate health and safety in all that I did in the workplace.

What qualifications do you hold?

A business degree, Dip.RSA, NEBOSH General Cert, NEBOSH Fire Safety/Risk Management, A1 Assessor, NVQ4 OSH, CMIOSH, MIFireE, MIIRSM, along with other specialist qualifications from various other functions, such as the Fire Service, food industry, manufacturing, etc.

Which aspects of your health and safety role do you most enjoy?

Teaching and educating. I get tremendous personal and job satisfaction from passing on information, especially where you can see you have made a difference. I also enjoy designing training courses and safety strategy. However, I get most enjoyment from solving complex health and safety issues/problems.

What have been the highest and lowest points in your career?

Highest point for me is witnessing success. Achievement is hard-earned and should be recognised and rewarded with quality feedback and praise. Lowest points for me personally: being at the scene of an accident/incident that should never have taken place. Life and livelihood are precious and should be treated as such.

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

I think the Regulatory Reform Order 2005 is important, as it replaced more than 100 pieces of legislation. However, I do agree with David Cameron in that for every piece of health and safety legislation, we need to ask whether it fulfils a useful purpose – and if not, it must go.

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

Some 2.2 million people work in Britain’s construction industry, making it the country’s biggest. It is also one of the most dangerous. Developments are progressing and the HSE readily recognises the changes that need to be made, but I do think a radical reform will be required in the next five to 10 years.

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

I’d fully support the new tower-crane regulation proposals. Having worked in several environments where lip service had been paid to the Work at Height Regulations, I feel tighter control on the use of tower cranes will save lives. My pet hate in this regard is the lack of understanding and appreciation of the rescue of personnel working in tower cranes, should an emergency occur.

How do you capitalise on your IOSH membership?

Being a member provides the necessary kudos in what we do. It gives me many networking opportunities and verification of my health and safety knowledge to the highest standard, through my chartered membership. The CPD function is great and reinforces personal professionalism. I attend IOSH functional groups whenever I can, and I’m a member of my regional health and safety group.

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

Be and remain enthusiastic and passionate about making a difference in the world of safety.  Ensure your enthusiasm is well-known and publicised; sometimes you have to blow your own trumpet to get the right tune. Secondly, ensure your CPD is maintained and recorded, and continue to acquire new skills/tools to add to your portfolio, and keep up with current events.

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

My wife Kerry. She is a constant source of inspiration and motivation. There’s hardly a time that she does not remind me of how important my role is, keeping people and businesses safe. She reckons I’m not the typical ‘elf and safety professional, or ‘jobsworth’, and this keeps me on my toes and makes me think even harder about the decisions I make. I wouldn’t want her to change her perception of me!

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

I think I would like to be a life coach and mentor. I really enjoy helping others and get a great deal of satisfaction from making a contribution to the success of projects, or other people’s personal objectives.

John Berrisford
Business support manager, Staffs Fire and Rescue Service
2006 – 2009

Operational incident commander/watch manager, Staffs Fire and Rescue Service

2004 – 2006Senior H&S consultant, Essential Management Services
2001 – 2004Site/H&S manager, Dairy Crest
1999 – 2001UK H&S manager, ISS Food Hygiene Ltd


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