Health and safety training
Health and safety training advice and tips
Health and safety has always been an accessible career, and the profession’s diversity is one of its strengths. The popularity of health and safety as a second (or third) career – many practitioners describe getting into health and safety “by accident” – means individuals bring invaluable experience from other fields.
Central to the accessibility of the profession, of course, is training: while many practitioners move into health and safety gradually, perhaps assuming extra responsibilities as part of their existing job roles, there comes a point when formalising “on the job” knowledge becomes necessary.
Thanks to organisations like the National Examination Board in Occupational Safety and Health (NEBOSH), there are numerous options available – distance learning, online, or traditional classroom – and different levels of training to suit all needs, from courses and certificates to degree-level Diplomas. The rewards – from a personal, career perspective as well as for the employer – are enormous. But with studying often happening alongside a day job, individuals may have numerous, competing demands on their time.
In NEBOSH’s new guide, Do Something Great: Your Health and Safety Career, 24 experts from around the world share career advice. In this article for SHP, some of these experts provide their hints and tips for making the most of your training.
Keeping several balls in the air at once can be challenging, but there are ways of making sure they don’t all end up on the floor. Getting into a good routine is essential.
“Set a fixed time each day to study and set small achievable goals,” suggests Ian Stacey, Head of Health and Safety at Action for Children. “For instance, just reading one chapter of a book.”
“You need to live by your calendar,” agrees Neil Fisher, Health, Safety and Environment Practitioner, Works Delivery Special Projects, LNE & EM, Network Rail. “Set yourself time for training and stick to it. Make it one of the priority items in your diary.”
Of course, distractions are never far away, and technology isn’t always a friend when you’re trying to study. So, Mihai Postaru, Health, Safety & Environment Manager at Mazzraty advises: “Put your phone away on airplane mode and go to a quiet place with your book and a notepad. Spend an hour per day understanding the subject, not memorising text.”
Fitting training around a full-time job can feel daunting, but there are more opportunities for study than there might appear to be. “Use your lunchtimes and down time,” adds Mihai. “Have a copy of whatever you’re learning on your laptop, and instead of checking out your buddies’ Facebook pages during your lunch hour, get cracking on learning.”
Many employers are hugely supportive and encouraging when it comes to employees gaining new skills, and celebrate their desire to learn and accelerate their career progression. Some employers, though, are less enlightened, viewing study as a distraction. Whichever category you think your employers falls into, they will appreciate being kept in the loop.
“Speak to your employer,” urges Robert Jukes, HSE Manager at Wax Lyrical, “They may be supportive…they may not. My point is that they may free up some time and resources to help you do this, which will make life easier.”
Whatever your individual circumstances, James Pomeroy, Group Health, Safety, Environment and Security Director at Lloyd’s Register, stresses the need to be realistic about what is possible.
“Having completed numerous diplomas and degrees ‘on the job’, I’ve found much of the stress is self-imposed by setting an overly aggressive timeline or not being realistic.
“Most families and managers understand, so it’s helpful to talk openly about the challenges and you’ll probably find the reassurance and support you need.”
Eyes on the prize
However keenly an individual embarks on a training course, the point may come when a bad week or a challenging topic dims enthusiasm and studying feels like an uphill struggle. Selecting the right course and the right trainer in the first place are important, but once you are on the journey there are other ways of maintaining momentum, such as goal setting.
“Write down what you want to achieve,” advises Neil Fisher, “and refer to this each time you feel your motivation slipping.”
Keeping your eyes on the prize – the long game – is important. “You invest now: time, effort and money,” points out Mihai Postaru. “Having gained the qualification, it’s most likely you’ll recover the costs. It has the ability to turn your life around completely – that’s very motivating!”
Flavio Noè, former Head of HSE at Gardaland, Merlin Entertainments Group, believes family and friends can be crucial: “It’s not a bad idea to share your choice with the people around you before starting. Get them interested and involved so they support you.”
If the completion date seems far off, James Pomeroy suggests “focusing on one module at a time and setting ‘milestones’ to complete the module. Breaking up study into modules allows you to ‘sprint’ during your study period and then ‘rest’ for a while to relax with family and friends before the next sprint.”
Ian Stacey agrees: “Be kind to yourself, set realistic targets and reward yourself when you reach them.”
Health and safety is an ever-evolving discipline: new risks emerge, and populations change, so there’s always more to learn. The skills developed while studying can be invaluable as professionals tackle new challenges.
“Your learning doesn’t stop when you pass your first NEBOSH qualification – in fact it only just starts,” reflects Simon Jones, Head of Health and Safety at Link Contracting. “There are so many opportunities to learn and develop in this role, so take every chance you can.
“The great thing about this profession is that there is always something going on [and] loads of events are free, so there really is no excuse! Embrace CPD as a framework to build upon and set yourself milestones to achieve… Really look at where you are now and where you want to be. That way you can work out a learning development plan or road map that will get you there.”
Above all, remember that learning is not only for the classroom.
“Health and safety is on-the-job training,” says Dr Abdulrahman Jawahery, NEBOSH Ambassador and President of Gulf Petrochemical Industries Co (GPIC). “Immerse yourself in the workplace. Explore it from top to bottom. Open every door and explore.”
This is just a flavour of the advice that can be found in NEBOSH’s new guide, Do Something Great – Your Health and Safety Career. Download your free copy.